Springsteen, De Niro to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Music legend Bruce Springsteen, basketball star Michael Jordan and actor Robert De Niro are among 21 people who will be honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the White House said Wednesday.

The nation s highest civilian honor is “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,” said US President Barack Obama in an announcement.

“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,” Obama said.

The list loaded with entertainers and celebrities also includes comedian and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres, actors Tom Hanks and Robert Redford, stage performer Cicely Tyson and cultural icon Diana Ross, known for her more than half-a-century career in music, film, television, theater and fashion.

Lorne Michaels, a screenwriter and producer best known for creating the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live is also a recipient.

Broadcaster Vin Scully, who was the voice of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers baseball teams for 67 years, will receive the top award, along with basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the National Basketball Association s all-time leading scorer and an ardent social justice advocate.

Philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates will be recognized for their work with the Gates Foundation, which focuses on fighting extreme poverty and improving global health.

Other honorees include leading architect Frank Gehry and artist Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.

Lawyer and former Federal Communications Committee chief Newt Minow will be honored, along with Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padron, a champion of access to education and inclusion.

Obama will also recognize physicist Richard Garwin and mathematician Margaret Hamilton, who led the team that created on-board flight software for NASA s Apollo missions.

The late Elouise Cobell, a Blackfeet Tribal community leader and “advocate for Native American self-determination and financial independence,” will receive the award posthumously, as will Grace Hopper, known as “the first lady of software” for her coding innovations.

The award ceremony will take place at the White House on November 22.