July 3rd, 2012
03:50 PM ET
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama released a statement on the death of actor Andy Griffith, calling him "extraordinary talent" and "revered".
Here is the statement in full:
"Michelle and I were saddened to hear about the passing of Andy Griffith this morning. A performer of extraordinary talent, Andy was beloved by generations of fans and revered by entertainers who followed in his footsteps. He brought us characters from Sheriff Andy Taylor to Ben Matlock, and in the process, warmed the hearts of Americans everywhere. Our thoughts and prayers are with Andy’s family."
Then-president George W. Bush awarded Griffith the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civil award, in a ceremony at the White House in November 2005 for being an"American icon of the stage, cinema, and television."
Griffith died at his home in North Carolina on Tuesday morning. He was 86.
May 30th, 2012
10:18 AM ET
By CNN's Bob Kovach
(CNN) - The White House was in damage control Tuesday evening after words that President Obama used at a ceremony honoring 12 Americans with the Medal of Freedom sparked outrage.
The trouble came when he paid tribute to Jan Karski, the former Polish officer who escaped Nazi imprisonment and provided firsthand accounts to the Western Allies of atrocities. Karski received the award posthumously.
"Before one trip across enemy lines, resistance fighters told him that Jews were being murdered on a massive scale, and smuggled him into the Warsaw Ghetto and a Polish death camp to see for himself. Jan took that information to President Franklin Roosevelt, giving one of the first accounts of the Holocaust and imploring to the world to take action," Obama said.
May 29th, 2012
06:36 PM ET
WHITE HOUSE (CNN) - President Obama honored a dozen heroes from all different aspects of life to the White House and presented them with the highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom. The group of honorees included signer and songwriter Bob Dylan, former astronaut and senator John Glenn, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and legendary women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt. Three recipients were honored posthumously, including the founder of the Girl Scouts Juliette Gordon Low.
Obama commented that all 13 individuals were personal heroes in his life. He mentioned reading novelist Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon as a teenager and listening to Dylan’s music when he was in college. He praised John Doar for his work as a Justice Department official who enforced civil rights in the 1960s. “I think it's fair to say that I might not be here had it not been for his work,” the president said.
He also mentioned how the winners had impacted his family, particularly his daughters’ lives.
“Everybody on this stage has marked my life in profound ways. And I was telling - somebody like Pat Summitt - when I think about my two daughters, who are tall and gifted, and knowing that because of folks like Coach Summitt they’re standing up straight and diving after loose balls and feeling confident and strong, then I understand that the impact that these people have had extends beyond me,” Obama said. “It will continue for generations to come.”
For more of the story, check out what our friends at CNN wires wrote here.
April 26th, 2012
05:02 PM ET
The White House announced 13 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Thursday. Along with previously announced recipients Madeleine Albright and Pat Summitt, the recipients or their representatives will be invited to the White House in late spring to receive the nation’s highest civilian honor. Three of this year's recipients will be awarded the medal posthumously.
In a statement, the White House said that the Medal of Freedom is “presented to individuals 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.”
President Obama said in the statement, “These extraordinary honorees come from different backgrounds and different walks of life, but each of them has made a lasting contribution to the life of our Nation. They’ve challenged us, they’ve inspired us, and they’ve made the world a better place. I look forward to recognizing them with this award.”
Here is a list of this year’s recipients and some of the information released by White House on why they were selected:
April 23rd, 2012
11:07 AM ET
(CNN) – Speaking at the United States Holocaust Museum, President Obama announced on Monday he will award a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski, the former Polish officer who escaped Nazi imprisonment and provided first-hand accounts to the Western Allies of atrocities he witnessed in Warsaw.
“We must tell our children about how this evil was allowed to happen—because so many people succumbed to their darkest instincts; because so many others stood silent. But let us also tell our children about the Righteous Among the Nations. Among them was Jan Karski—a young Polish Catholic—who witnessed Jews being put on cattle cars, who saw the killings, and who told the truth, all the way to President Roosevelt himself,” Obama said in remarks observing Holocaust Remembrance day.
Karski, who later immigrated to the United States and earned a Ph.D from Georgetown University, died in 2000.
The Medal of Freedom is the highest honor a president can bestow on a civilian and is awarded to individuals “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.
February 15th, 2011
05:29 PM ET
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Today the president awarded 15 people the Presidential Medal of Freedom for their contributions to society. In a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, President Obama said that this is one of the events, as he described it, he most looks forward to each year.
Maybe that’s because the Presenter-in-Chief gets to try his hand at humor.
No more than a few seconds into his remarks, Obama had the crowd laughing when he welcomed the audience and guests to the White House. “Some of you have been here before,” he deadpanned, no more than a few feet from award winner and former president George H.W. Bush.
According to the White House-provided transcript of the event, the president earned just about two dozen laughs in the nearly hour-long event. “Now you can see why I love this day,” the president exclaimed at the event’s conclusion.
Read below the fold for some of the highlights:
February 15th, 2011
04:43 PM ET
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) came into the James S. Brady Briefing Room after receiving the nation’s top civilian honor today. Surrounded by reporters, the civil rights icon described the honor as “unreal.”
He recounted his efforts during the civil rights movement, when endured more than 40 arrests and countless beatings. “I didn’t give up, I didn’t give in, I kept the faith, I kept my eyes on the prize,” he said solemnly. “It’s worth every step, every sit-in, every beating, every arrest.”
Nearly 50 years later, the man who was at times left for dead was seated along-side athletes, musicians, poets, and even a former president. Today he was one of just 15 to be honored by the President of the United States.
“Generations from now, when parents teach their children what is meant by courage, the story of John Lewis will come to mind,” Mr. Obama said. “An American who knew that change could not wait for some other person or some other time; whose life is a lesson in the fierce urgency of now.”
February 15th, 2011
02:30 PM ET
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A former U.S. president, along with legendary names from the worlds of business, literature, sports, civil rights, labor rights and politics were at the White House on Tuesday as President Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to fifteen people.
The medal, the nation's highest civilian honor, is presented to individuals who have made especially meritorius contributions to the security, or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavours according to the White House.
Check out this photo gallery from Senior Supervising Producer Stacia Deshishku of all of this year's recipients.
November 17th, 2010
06:56 PM ET
By the CNN Wire Staff
Washington (CNN) - Former President George H.W. Bush is one of 15 individuals who will receive America's highest civilian honor early next year, the White House announced Wednesday.
Bush will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is "presented to individuals 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 a White House statement.
To find out who else will be honored, check out the complete story on CNN.com.