WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will honor a diverse cross-section of political and cultural icons — including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, astronaut John Glenn, basketball coach Pat Summitt and rock legend Bob Dylan — with the Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony Tuesday.
The Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor. It’s presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the national interests of the United States, to world peace or to other significant endeavors.
Other recipients this year include:
—Toni Morrison, author of such novels as “Song of Solomon” and “Beloved.”
—John Paul Stevens, former Supreme Court Justice.
—Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts.
—Shimon Peres, former president of Israel.
—John Doar, who handled civil rights cases as assistant attorney general in the 1960s.
—William Foege, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who helped lead the effort to eradicate smallpox.
—Gordon Hirabayashi, who fought the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
—Jan Karski, a resistance fighter against the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II.
—Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers of America.
Albright was the first woman to hold the top U.S. diplomatic job, while Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth. Summitt led the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team to more NCAA Final Four appearances than any other team. And Dylan’s vast catalog of songs includes such rock classics as “Like a Rolling Stone,” ”Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Mr. Tambourine Man.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.