Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Maya Angelou, John Lewis and Bill Russell Receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom

"the best of who we are and who we aspire to be" 
President Barack Obama

Today, President Obama honored fifteen recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a ceremony at the White House. As the President said, “These outstanding honorees come from a broad range of backgrounds and they’ve excelled in a broad range of fields, but all of them have lived extraordinary lives that have inspired us, enriched our culture, and made our country and our world a better place. I look forward to awarding them this honor.”The Nation’s highest civilian honor, the 2010 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.  The following individuals received the Presidential Medal of Honor Today:

•President George H. W. Bush - George Herbert Walker Bush was the 41st President of the United States.
•Chancellor Angela Merkel - Angela Merkel is the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Congressman John Lewis - John Lewis is an American hero and a giant of the Civil Rights Movement.
•John H. Adams - John H. Adams co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council in 1970.
Maya Angelou - Dr. Maya Angelou is a prominent and celebrated author, poet, educator, producer, actress, filmmaker, and civil rights activist, who is currently the Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University.
•Warren Buffett - Warren Buffett is an American investor, industrialist, and philanthropist. He is one of the most successful investors in the world.
•Jasper Johns - American artist Jasper Johns has produced a distinguished body of work dealing with themes of perception and identity since the mid-1950s.
•Gerda Weissmann Klein - Gerda Weissmann Klein is a Jewish Holocaust survivor who has written several books about her experiences.
•Dr. Tom Little (Posthumous) - Dr. Tom Little was an optometrist who was brutally murdered on August 6, 2010, by the Taliban in the Kuran Wa Munjan district of Badakhshan, Afghanistan, along with nine other members of a team returning from a humanitarian mission to provide vision care in the remote Parun valley of Nuristan.
•Yo-Yo Ma - Yo-Yo Ma is considered the world’s greatest living cellist, recognized as a prodigy since the age of five whose celebrity transcends the world of classical music.
•Sylvia Mendez - Sylvia Mendez is a civil rights activist of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent.
•Stan Musial - Stan “The Man” Musial is a baseball legend and Hall of Fame first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals. Musial played 22 seasons for the Cardinals from 1941 to 1963.
Bill Russell - Bill Russell is the former Boston Celtics’ Captain who almost single-handedly redefined the game of basketball.
•Jean Kennedy Smith - In 1974, Jean Kennedy Smith founded VSA, a non-profit organization affiliated with the John F. Kennedy Center that promotes the artistic talents of children, youth and adults with disabilities.
•John J. Sweeney - John J. Sweeney is the current President Emeritus of the AFL-CIO, and served as President of the AFL-CIO from 1995 to 2009.

Maya Angelou is an internationally acclaimed author and poet with over thirty books in print and has received three Grammy Awards for spoken word. Dr. Angelou serves as the Northern Coordinator for The Southern Christian Leadership Conference – she was appointed by the request of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Her Memoir, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” was published in 1970. She received a Pulitzer Prize Nomination in 1972 for “Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diiie.” Her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” was written at the request of William Jefferson Clinton for his Inauguration as the 42nd President of the United States and was presented on January 20, 1993. In 1993 Random House published her book “Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems for Women.” In 1995, her poem “A Brave and Startling Truth,” was recited at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.
Maya Angelou has written plays, screenplays and performed as an actor in television programs, series and films, receiving an Emmy Nomination for Best Supporting Actress in the television series “Roots.” In 1998 Maya Angelou presented her directorial film debut for the film, “Down in the Delta.”
Maya Angelou is fluent in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and West African Fanti. With over 1,000,000 Facebook Fans, she is known as “the people’s poet” and her voice continues to reach across lines of age, race, sexual preference and religion. Maya Angelou champions diversity and her belief that “we are more alike than unalike.”  http://mayaangelouonpublicradio.com/bios/maya-angelou/

John Lewis is often called "one of the most courageous persons the Civil Rights Movement ever produced," John Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties, and building what he calls "The Beloved Community" in America. His dedication to the highest ethical standards and moral principles has

He was born the son of sharecroppers on February 21, 1940, outside of Troy, Alabama. He grew up on his family's farm and attended segregated public schools in Pike County, Alabama. As a young boy, he was inspired by the activism surrounding the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., which he heard on radio broadcasts. In those pivotal moments, he made a decision to become a part of the Civil Rights Movement. Ever since then, he has remained at the vanguard of progressive social movements and the human rights struggle in the United States.

As a student at American Baptist College, John Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1961, he volunteered to participate in the Freedom Rides, which challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. Lewis risked his life on those Rides many times by simply sitting in seats reserved for white patrons. He was also beaten severely by angry mobs and arrested by police for challenging the injustice of Jim Crow segregation in the South.  Check out EH Post here:  http://experiencinghistory.blogspot.com/2009/02/cowards-and-heroes.html
While still a young man, John Lewis became a nationally recognized leader. By 1963, he was dubbed one of the Big Six leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. (The others were Whitney Young, A. Phillip Randolph, Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer and Roy Wilkins). At the age of 23, he was an architect of and a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington in August 1963.   Despite more than 40 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries, John Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence.   In 1977, John Lewis was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to direct more than 250,000 volunteers of ACTION, the federal volunteer agency.

John Lewis holds a B.A. in Religion and Philosophy from Fisk University, and he is a graduate of the American Baptist Theological Seminary, both in Nashville, Tennessee. He has been awarded over 50 honorary degrees from prestigious colleges and universities throughout the United States.  Lewis is the recipient of numerous awards from imminent national and international institutions, including the Lincoln Medal from the historic Ford's Theatre, the Golden Plate Award given by the Academy of Excellence, the Preservation Hero award given by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Capital Award of the National Council of La Raza, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Non-Violent Peace Prize, the President's Medal of Georgetown University, the NAACP Spingarn Medal, the National Education Association Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Award, and the only John F. Kennedy "Profile in Courage Award" for Lifetime Achievement ever granted by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. The Timberland Company has developed the John Lewis Award, which honors the Congressman's commitment to humanitarian service by acknowledging members of society who perform outstanding humanitarian work. And the company has established a John Lewis Scholarship Fund.
John Lewis authored his biography with writer Michael D'Orso, entitled Walking With The Wind: A Memoir of the Movement (June, 1998). http://johnlewis.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=17&Itemid=31

Bill Russell is a retired American professional basketball player who played center for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association (NBA). A five-time winner of the NBA Most Valuable Player Award and a twelve-time All-Star, Russell was the centerpiece of the Celtics dynasty that won eleven NBA Championships during Russell's thirteen-year career. Along with Henri Richard of the National Hockey League's Montreal Canadiens, Russell holds the record for the most championships won by an athlete in a North American sports league. Before his professional career, Russell led the University of San Francisco to two consecutive NCAA championships (1955, 1956). He also won a gold medal at the 1956 Summer Olympics as captain of the U.S. national basketball team.

Russell is widely considered one of the best players in NBA history. Listed as between 6'9" (2.06 m) and 6'10" (2.08 m), Russell's shot-blocking and man-to-man defense were major reasons for the Celtics' success. He also inspired his teammates to elevate their own defensive play. Russell was equally notable for his rebounding abilities. He led the NBA in rebounds four times and tallied 21,620 total rebounds in his career. He is one of just two NBA players (the other being prominent rival Wilt Chamberlain) to have grabbed more than fifty rebounds in a game. Though never the focal point of the Celtics' offense, Russell also scored 14,522 career points and provided effective passing.

Playing in the wake of pioneers like Earl Lloyd, Chuck Cooper, and Sweetwater Clifton, Russell was the first African American player to achieve superstar status in the NBA. He also served a three-season (1966–69) stint as player-coach for the Celtics, becoming the first African American NBA coach.[1] Frequent battles with racism left Russell with a long-standing contempt for fans and journalists. When he retired, Russell left Boston with a bitter attitude, although in recent years his relationship with the city has improved. Russell is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. He was selected into NBA 25th Anniversary Team in 1971, into NBA 35th Anniversary Team in 1980 and named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996, one of only four players that selected into all three teams. In 2007, he was enshrined in the FIBA Hall of Fame. In 2009, the NBA announced that the NBA Finals MVP trophy would be named the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award in honor of Russell.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Russell


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