Obama to Award Highest Civilian Honor to 13 Recipients

Posted May 29th, 2012 at 2:05 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama is set Tuesday to award the Israeli president, a World War II resistance fighter, a former U.S. astronaut, and several others the nation's highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In a ceremony at the White House, the president will give the medal to 13 people deemed to have made “especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

Included among the recipients is the Israeli President Shimon Peres, who is known as an advocate for Israel's security and for peace.

Another honoree, the late Jan Karski, was part of the Polish underground resistance movement during World War II. He reported to Allied nations some of the first eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust.

Other recipients include American folk musician Bob Dylan; the first female U.S. secretary of state, Madeleine Albright; and former U.S. astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth.

President Obama will also honor Japanese-American Gordon Hirabayashi, who died earlier this year. Hirabayashi was a college activist against the forced relocation and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

The medal will also be given to novelist Toni Morrison; civil rights advocate John Doar; former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens; women's college basketball coach Pat Summitt; smallpox physician William Foege; and labor rights advocate Dolores Huerta.

Also honored will be Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, who died in 1927.