As President Obama winds down his final days in office, he’s vowed to leave it all on the field and work right up until the end. One of his final acts in office includes honoring exceptional Americans with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is America’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. This year, the group of honorees comes from several segments of life, including sports and entertainment, science, philanthropy, technology and art.
Among the 21 Americans being honored this year, four are African American—EBONY Power 100 Lifetime Achievement winner Cicely Tyson, Diana Ross, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Michael Jordan.
A White House press release explained why each person was chosen:
Cicely Tyson has performed on the stage, on television, and on the silver screen. She has won two Emmy Awards and a Tony Award, and is known for her performances in Sounder, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, and The Help. In 2013, she returned to the stage with The Trip to the Bountiful, and was awarded the Tony Award for best leading actress. Tyson received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2015.
Diana Ross has had an iconic career spanning more than 50 years within the entertainment industry in music, film, television, theater, and fashion. Diana Ross is an Academy Award nominee, inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and recipient of the Grammy Awards highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award. Ross was a recipient of the 2007 Kennedy Center Honors. Diana Ross’s greatest legacy is her five wonderful children.
Michael Jordan is one of the greatest athletes of all time. Jordan played 15 seasons in the NBA for the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards; he is currently a principal owner and chairman of the Charlotte Hornets. During his career, he won six championships, five Most Valuable Player awards, and appeared in 14 All-Star games
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the National Basketball Association’s all-time leading scorer who helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers to five championships and the Milwaukee Bucks to another. During his career, Abdul-Jabbar was a six-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a 19-time NBA All-Star. Before joining the NBA, he was a star player at UCLA, leading the Bruins to three consecutive championships. In addition to his legendary basketball career, Abdul-Jabbar has been an outspoken advocate for social justice.
President Obama praised the honorees for helping to “push America forward” and “inspiring millions of people around the world.”
“The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation’s highest civilian honor – it’s a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better,” he said. “From scientists, philanthropists, and public servants to activists, athletes, and artists, these 21 individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way.”
The awards will be presented at the White House on November 22.