"These men and women have enriched our lives and helped define our shared experience as Americans," President Obama said of the honorees
A handful of celebrities including Barbra Streisand, Steven Spielberg, Gloria Estefan and James Taylor have been singled out to receive the nation’s highest civilian honor – the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
President Obama will present the awards in a ceremony at the White House on Nov. 24.
“I look forward to presenting these 17 distinguished Americans with our nation’s highest civilian honor,” the president said in a statement announcing the list of honorees on Monday. “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.”
Other recipients include Estefan’s husband, music producer Emilio Estefan, composer Stephen Sondheim, baseball greats Yogi Berra (who will receive the award posthumously) and Willie Mays, veterans activist Bonnie Carroll, former Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton, NASA mathematician Katherine G. Johnson, Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski, violinist and conductor Itzhak Perlman and former EPA administrator William Ruckelshaus.
Posthumous honors will also be given to Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American congresswoman, Native American rights activist Billy Frank Jr. and human rights leader Minoru Yasui.