Presidential Medal of Freedom to be Presented to Two Deceased LGBT Heroes
The White House announced yesterday that deceased LGBT heroes, Sally Ride and Bayard Rustin, are among the sixteen recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nations highest civilian honor. The award which is given to individuals for their contributions to world peace, national interests of the United State or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors, will be presented later this year.
"The Presidential Medal of Freedom goes to men and women who have dedicated their own lives to enriching ours." said President Obama in a White House press release. "This year's honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world. It will be my honor to present them with a token of our nation's gratitude."
This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Executive Order signed by President John F. Kennedy establishing the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as well as the first ceremony bestowing the honor on an inaugural class of 31 recipients. Since that time, more than 500 exceptional individuals from all corners of society have been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Sally Ride was the first American female astronaut to travel to space. As a role model to generations of young women, she advocated passionately for science education, stood up for racial and gender equality in the classroom, and taught students from every background that there are no limits to what they can accomplish. Dr. Ride also served in several administrations as an advisor on space exploration.
Bayard Rustin was an unyielding activist for civil rights, dignity, and equality for all. An advisor to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he promoted nonviolent resistance, participated in one of the first Freedom Rides, organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and fought tirelessly for marginalized communities at home and abroad. As an openly gay African American, Mr. Rustin stood at the intersection of several of the fights for equal rights.
The 2013 list of recipients also includes baseball legend Ernie Banks, newsman Bill Bradlee, former president Bill Clinton, Senator Daniel Inouye (posthumous), Nobel Prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman, Senator Richard Lugar, country singer Loretta Lynn, environmental scientist Mario Molina, jazz legend Arturo Sandoval, basketball coach and civil rights advocate Dean Smith, women's rights activist Gloria Steinem, civil rights activist C.T. Vivian, judge Patricia Wald and journalist/humanitarian Oprah Winfrey.