August 12th, 2009
04:22 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama honors sixteen with Presidential Medal of Freedom

Actor Sidney Poitier was among the sixteen individuals honored by the president at the White House Wednesday.
Actor Sidney Poitier was among the sixteen individuals honored by the president at the White House Wednesday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama on Wednesday presented 16 people - including scientists, activists, actors, an athlete and a preacher - with the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

"This is a chance for me and for the United States of America to say thank you to some of the finest citizens of this country and of all countries," Obama told the audience assembled for the ceremony at the White House.

Watch: Obama says 'thank you'

"At a moment when cynicism and doubt too often prevail, when our obligations to one another are too often forgotten, when the road ahead can seem too long or hard to tread, these extraordinary men and women, these agents of change, remind us that excellence is not beyond our abilities, that hope lies around the corner and that justice can still be won in the forgotten corners of this world," the president said.

"They remind us that we each have it within our powers to fulfill dreams, to advance the dreams of others and to remake the world for our children."

The Presidential Medal of Freedom, an annual award, was created after World War II when President Harry Truman wanted to honor civilian service during the war.

Related: Sixteen to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    That was a wonderful awards ceremony.

    August 12, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  2. malclave

    The Presidential Medal of Freedom is now being awarded for anti-Semitism.

    Change we Can Believe In.

    August 12, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  3. Enlightened Voter

    I wish i was there!
    Signed a PROUD LIBERAL DEMOCRAT.

    August 12, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  4. Desiree

    So, now we just give these out to celebrities who won an academy award??? How is that showing change??? Sorry, but this was done strictly for publicity for Obama to gather more support to African-Americans and the gay/lesbian movement. I THINK we have bigger things on our plate to worry about.

    August 12, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  5. Kit

    BORING!!!!!! How is helping the American people? What is he doing besides hobknobbing with celebrities while the rest of work like slaves to keep our lame jobs!!!! What has he done for any of the real people not just the celebrities???!!!!

    August 12, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  6. Jimmy the Greek

    Obama says, "....when our obligations to one another are too often forgotten...."

    Aparently Barack thinks "love they neighbor" is a Government Program.

    Our obligations to one another come from CHARITY, sir, not coerced heavy-handed taxation. Take your "Government Option" and shove it!

    August 12, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  7. Jason

    All the pomp and cicumstance that multicultural fascism has to offer.

    August 12, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  8. Willy Brown

    Whoopie, another liberal love fest.

    August 12, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  9. John, Brooklyn, New York

    Its inspiring that today we are honoring these great and humble Americans who have lived lives of peace, judicious behavior and have acted in the long-term best interest of this country.

    Ironically, these heros of American democracy are contrasted today more reports of fear-mongering and name-calling screamers at the town hall meetings. These town hall meetings were deisgned to promote a grass roots, transparent conversation about healthcare reform with civility and respect for diverse opinions.

    Further, the pawns of the Republican Party, the insurance lobby, and hate radio are claiming to simply be expressing their opinions as an act of democracy. However, attempts to stop discourse on an important issue through lies, shouts – and even death threats – are not expressions of democracy. They are, in fact, efforts to stop the democratic process of public discussion and debate.

    There is no question who are the better Americans.

    August 12, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  10. Rik

    One of the perks of being President.

    August 12, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  11. Dino

    How could that arrogant, incompetent obama even think of awarding medals of freedom, when he is throwing the constitution under the bus and taking the American peoples freedom away!

    August 12, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  12. Jkay - KCMO

    Very, very impressive event. They were all deserving.

    August 12, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  13. Claudia in Houson

    This was a beautiful and at times tear jerking ceremony for those who have given so much of themselves to benefit others.

    August 12, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  14. jon c. sprowl

    half of these people are socialists and if american should be deported.

    August 12, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  15. C W

    All the recipients are very well deserving!

    August 12, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  16. Sydney Poitier?

    I will need to read about him to see what he has done to deserve a national medal, I have seen a film or two of his, I hope it is more than that

    August 12, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  17. m jeff

    Excellent choices.

    August 12, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  18. cali seadog

    Umm...Republican presidents have awarded this medal also, so it's not just a liberal democrat thing.

    August 12, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  19. jeff jackson, alabama

    Some I can see........BUT FOREIGNERS ???????

    August 12, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  20. jeff jackson, alabama

    Well nobody spells correctly all the time.
    Sorry 'bout that.

    August 12, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  21. dominican mama 4 Obama

    Very true and touching words President Obama. We look to you to inspire and lead us. To stay the course. Take the reins of Congress and do not be afraid to lead and tread where no man has dared to go.
    America needs for you to lead us sir, be not afraid.

    August 12, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  22. sunshine

    It's so nice to hear good news, well deserved honors.

    August 12, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  23. Goin2puk

    Nothing but SMOKE & MIRRORS! Not buying any of this hoop-ti-do! I can name dozens of military people who truly deserve medals!

    August 12, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  24. Jack, Montauk, NY

    How proud both of those men must have been at that very moment!

    August 12, 2009 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  25. RCasson

    A black President awarding the first, black oscar winner for best actor.

    Priceless photo. Thanks CNN!

    August 12, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
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