President Barack Obama has announced the names of 17 individuals to be honored with the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. These individuals were chosen as a result of their admirable contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors, the White House said.
In an official statement, President Obama said, “I look forward to presenting these 17 distinguished Americans with our nation’s highest civilian honor. From public servants who helped us meet defining challenges of our time to artists who expanded our imaginations, from leaders who have made our union more perfect to athletes who have inspired millions of fans, these men and women have enriched our lives and helped define our shared experience as Americans.”
The husband and wife duo are well-known for helping to popularize Latin music around the world. Gloria, in particular, became one of the first mainstream Hispanic artists to crossover between English and Spanish language music paving the way for countless other Latin artists to follow. The Estefans are inductees of the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame and a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
As for Spielberg, the legendary film director and producer is widely considered one of the most influential filmmakers in cinematic history. His films have grossed over 8.5 billion dollars worldwide. In addition to his successful career, spanning over four decades, Spielberg uses his star power for good. He is the founder of the USC Shoah Foundation, an organization dedicated to overcoming intolerance and bigotry through the use of visual history testimony.
Other individuals slated to be honored includes Barbra Streisand, Stephen Sondheim, James Taylor, violinist Itzhak Perlman, baseball legends Willie Mays and the late Yogi Berra, politicians Sen. Barbara Milkulski, former Rep. Lee Hamilton, the late Shirley Chisholm; the first African-American woman elected to Congress, Bonnie Carroll, NASA mathematician Katherine G. Johnson, former EPA chief and deputy attorney general William Ruckelshaus, known for refusing to fire the Watergate special prosecutor. Posthumous recipients include Indian tribal advocate Billy Frank Jr. and civil rights advocate Minoru Yasui.
The awards will be presented at the White House on Nov. 24th.