President Barack Obama announced today that the late-Sen. Daniel Inouye will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom later this year.
The medal is considered the highest civilian honor, given to individuals who have made meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, or to cultural or other significant endeavors, according to the White House.
Inouye died Dec. 17 at the age of 88 after serving 50 years as a senator from Hawaii.
The White House said Inouye is being honored for his lifelong public service, including fighting in World War II with 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Inouye lost his right arm in combat and was honored with the Medal of Honor for his military service.
Inouye is among 16 people, including former President Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey, who will receive the medal this year.
Clinton, who served as Arkansas’ governor before being elected the 42nd president, will be recognized also for his humanitarian work through the Clinton Foundation, which promotes global public health, economic development and environmental protection. The White House also noted his work with former President George W. Bush to raise money for Haiti after the Caribbean nation’s devastating 2010 earthquake. Clinton also spoke on Obama’s behalf at the 2012 Democratic convention, and his wife, former Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, was Obama’s first-term secretary of state.
Winfrey’s career as an American broadcaster, actress and activist has spanned decades, with The Oprah Winfrey Show becoming the highest rated talk show in America for 25 years. Her philanthropic efforts have been focused largely on education and creating opportunities for women and girls, in the U.S. and Africa. She was also an early and avid supporter of Obama’s first presidential campaign, raising money and campaigning in what was considered a major boost to Obama’s campaign.
“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,” Obama said in a statement.
Others who will receive the medal:
>> Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of the Washington Post who oversaw the newspaper’s coverage of Watergate.
>> Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space. Ride will receive the award posthumously.
>> Richard Lugar, former senator from Indiana who worked to reduce the global nuclear threat.
>> Gloria Steinem, writer and prominent women’s rights activist.
>>Ernie Banks, baseball player who hit more than 500 home runs and played 19 seasons with the Chicago Cubs.
>> Bayard Rustin, civil and gay rights activist and adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. Rustin will receive the award posthumously.
>> Daniel Kahneman, psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in Economics.
>> Loretta Lynn, country music singer.
>> Maria Molina, chemist and environmental scientist who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry.
>> Arturo Sandoval, Grammy-winning jazz musician who was born in Cuba and defected to the U.S.
>> Dean Smith, head coach of University of North Carolina’s basketball team for 36 years.
>> Patricia Wald, first woman appointed to U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia who became the court’s chief judge.
>> C.T. Vivian, civil rights leader and minister.
The awards will be presented at the White House later this year.
Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy created the medal — the highest honor the U.S. bestows on civilians — with the stroke of a pen to an executive order. In the five decades since, more than 500 people have been recognized for contributions to society of all stripes.