The White House. Photo by AgnosticPreachersKid/CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
The White House. Photo by AgnosticPreachersKid/CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Director Steven Spielberg, conductor Itzhak Perlman, composer Stephen Sondheim and singers Barbra Streisand and James Taylor were among 17 people honored at the White House Tuesday as recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

“Today we celebrate some extraordinary people — innovators, artists and leaders — who contribute to America’s strength as a nation,” President Barack Obama said.

The Medal of Freedom is presented to people “who 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,” according to the White House.

Also among those who received the honor were Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress; Bonnie Carroll, founder of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, which supports families of people who have died while serving in the military; and musicians Emilio and Gloria Estefan.

Former baseball players Willie Mays and the late Yogi Berra were also honored.

During the ceremony, Obama gave a brief description of each recipient’s accomplishments. Speaking about Streisand, he said, “She has sold more albums in America than any woman in history. She has collected just about every honor and award that there is. I couldn’t believe she hadn’t gotten this one.”

He said Spielberg’s films are “marked by boundless imagination, worlds rendered in extraordinary detail, characters who struggle to seize control of their destinies — all of that reminds us so powerfully of our own lives.”

—City News Service

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