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The President: Thank you.
Everybody, please have a seat.
We've got some work to do here.
This is not all fun and games.
Welcome to the White House, everybody.
Today, we celebrate extraordinary Americans who
have lifted our spirits, strengthened our union,
pushed us toward progress.
I always love doing this event, but this is a
particularly impressive class.
We've got innovators and artists.
Public servants, rabble rousers, athletes, renowned
character actors -- like the guy from Space Jam.
We pay tribute to those distinguished individuals
with our nation's highest civilian honor -- the
Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Now, let me tell you a little bit about each of them.
First, we came close to missing out on Bill and
Melinda Gates' incredible partnership.
Because apparently Bill's opening line was, "Do you
want to go out two weeks from this coming Saturday?"
He's good with computers, but --
Fortunately, Melinda believes in second chances.
And the world is better for it.
For two decades, the Gates Foundation has worked to
provide lifesaving medical care to millions -- boosting
clean water supplies, improving education for our
children, rallying aggressive international
action on climate change, cutting childhood mortality
in half.
The list could go on.
These two have donated more money to charitable causes
than anyone, ever.
Many years ago, Melinda's mom told her an old saying:
"To know that even one life has breathed easier because
you lived -- that is success." By this and just
about any other measure, few in human history have been
more successful than these two impatient optimists.
Frank Gehry has never let popular acclaim reverse his
impulse to defy convention.
"I was an outsider from the beginning," he says, "so for
better or worse, I thrived on it." The child of poor
Jewish immigrants, Frank grew up in Los Angeles, and
throughout his life he embraced the spirit of a
city defined by an open horizon.
He's spent his life rethinking shapes and
mediums, seemingly the force of gravity itself; the idea
of what architecture could be he decided to upend --
constantly repurposing every material available, from
titanium to a paper towel tube.
He's inspiring our next generation through his
advocacy for arts education in our schools.
From the Guggenheim, to Bilbao, to Chicago's
Millennium Park -- our hometown -- to his home in
Santa Monica, which I understand caused some
consternation among his neighbors --
- Frank's work teaches us that while buildings may be
sturdy and fixed to the ground, like all great art,
they can lift our spirits.
They can soar and broaden our horizons.
When an undergraduate from rural Appalachia first set
foot on the National Mall many years ago, she was
trying to figure out a way to show that "war is not
just a victory or a loss," but "about individual
lives." She considered how the landscape might shape
that message, rather than the other way around.
The project that Maya Lin designed for her college
class earned her a B+ --
-- and a permanent place in American history.
So all of you B+ students out there.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial has changed the way
we think about monuments, but also about how we think
about sacrifice, and patriotism, and ourselves.
Maya has given us more than just places for remembering
-- she has created places for us to make new memories.
Her sculptures, chapels, and homes are "physical act[s]
of poetry," each reminding us that the most important
element in art or architecture is human emotion.
Three minutes before Armstrong and Aldrin touched
down on the moon, Apollo 11's lunar lander alarms
triggered -- red and yellow lights across the board.
Our astronauts didn't have much time.
But thankfully, they had Margaret Hamilton.
A young MIT scientist -- and a working mom in the '60s --
Margaret led the team that created the onboard flight
software that allowed the Eagle to land safely.
And keep in mind that, at this time, software
engineering wasn't even a field yet.
There were no textbooks to follow, so, as Margaret
says, "There was no choice but to be pioneers."
Luckily for us, Margaret never stopped pioneering.
And she symbolizes the generation of unsung women
who helped send humankind into space.
Her software architecture echoes in countless
technologies today.
And her example speaks of the American spirit of
discovery that exists in every little girl and little
boy who know that somehow, to look beyond the heavens
is to look deep within ourselves -- and to figure
out just what is possible.
If Wright is flight and Edison is light, then Hopper
is code.
Born in 1906, Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper followed
her mother into mathematics, earned her PhD from Yale,
and set out on a long and storied career.
At age 37, and a full 15 pounds below military
guidelines, the gutsy and colorful Grace joined the
Navy and was sent to work on one of the first computers,
Harvard's "Mark One." She saw beyond the boundaries of
the possible, and invented the first compiler, which
allowed programs to be written in regular language
and then translated for computers to understand.
While the women who pioneered software were
often overlooked, the most prestigious award for young
computer scientists now bear her name.
From cell phones to cyber command, we can thank Grace
Hopper for opening programming to millions more
people, helping to usher in the information age and
profoundly shaping our digital world.
Speaking of really smart people --
-- in the summer of 1950, a young University of Chicago
physicist found himself
at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Dick Garwin was there, he said, because Chicago paid
its faculty for nine months but his family ate for 12.
So by the next summer, Dick had helped create the
hydrogen bomb.
And for the rest of his life, he dedicated himself
to reducing the threat of nuclear war.
Dick's not only an architect of the atomic age.
Ever since he was a Cleveland kid tinkering with
his father's movie projectors, he's never met a
problem he didn't want to solve.
Reconnaissance satellites, the MRI, GPS technology, the
touchscreen all bear his fingerprints.
He even patented a "mussel washer" for shellfish --
which I haven't used.
The other stuff I have.
Where is he?
Dick has advised nearly every President since
Eisenhower -- often rather bluntly.
Enrico Fermi -- also a pretty smart guy himself --
is said to have called Dick "the only true genius" he
ever met.
I do want to see this mussel washer.
Along with these scientists, artists, and thinkers, we
also honor those who have shaped our culture from the
stage and the screen.
In her long and extraordinary career, Cicely
Tyson has not only succeeded as an actor, she has shaped
the whole course history.
Cicely was never the likeliest of Hollywood stars.
The daughter of immigrants from the West Indies, she
was raised by a hardworking and religious mother who
cleaned houses and forbade her children to attend
the movies.
But once she got her education and broke into the
business, Cicely made a conscious decision not just
to say lines, but to speak out.
"I would not accept roles," she said, "unless they
projected us, particularly women, in a realistic light,
[and] dealt with us as human beings." And from "Sounder,"
to "The Trip to Bountiful," to "The Autobiography of
Miss Jane Pittman," Cicely's convictions and grace have
helped for us see the dignity of every single
beautiful member of the American family.
And she's just gorgeous.
(laughter and applause)
Yes, she is.
In 1973, a critic wrote of Robert De Niro, "This kid
doesn't just act -- he takes off into the vapors." And it
was true, his characters are iconic.
A Sicilian father turned New York mobster.
A mobster who runs a casino.
A mobster who needs therapy.
A father-in-law who is scarier than a mobster.
Al Capone -- a mobster.
Robert combines dramatic precision and, it turns out,
comedic timing with his signature eye for detail.
And while the name De Niro is synonymous with "tough
guy," his true gift is the sensitivity that he brings
to each role.
This son of New York artists didn't stop at becoming one
of the world's greatest actors.
He's also a director, a philanthropist, co-founder
of the Tribeca Film Festival.
Of his tireless preparation -- from learning the
saxophone to remaking his body -- he once said, "I
feel I have to earn the right to play a part." And
the result is honest and authentic art that reveals
who we really are.
In 1976, Lorne Michaels implored the Beatles to
reunite on his brand new show.
In exchange, he offered them $3,000.
And then he told them they could share it equally, or
they could give Ringo a smaller cut.
Which was early proof that Lorne Michaels has a good
sense of humor.
On Saturday Night Live, he's created a world where a band
of no-names become comedy's biggest stars.
Where our friends the Coneheads, and cheerleaders,
and land sharks, and basement deadbeats, and
motivational speakers, and an unfrozen caveman lawyer
show up, and Tom Hanks is on "Black Jeopardy."
After four decades, even in this fractured media culture
that we've got, SNL remains appointment viewing; a
mainline into not just our counterculture but our
culture; still a challenge to the powerful, especially
folks like me.
And yet even after all these years, Lorne jokes that his
tombstone should bear just a single word that's often
found in the show's reviews -- "uneven."
As a current U.S. Senator
would say: Doggone it, Lorne - that's why
people like you.
He produced a Senator, too, that's pretty impressive.
Ellen DeGeneres has a way of making you laugh about
something rather than at someone.
Except when I danced on her show -- she laughed at me.
But that's okay.
It's easy to forget now, when we've come so far,
where now marriage is equal under the law -- just how
much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the
most public of stages almost 20 years ago.
Just how important it was not just to the LGBT
community, but for all of us to see somebody so full of
kindness and light, somebody we liked so much, somebody
who could be our neighbor or our colleague or our sister
challenge our own assumptions, remind us that
we have more in common than we realize, push our country
in the direction of justice.
What an incredible burden that was to bear.
To risk your career like that.
People don't do that very often.
And then to have the hopes of millions on
your shoulders.
But it's like Ellen says: W all want a tortilla chip
that can support the weight of guacamole.
Which really makes no sense to me, but I thought would
brighten the mood, because I was getting kind of choked up.
And she did pay a price -- we don't remember this.
I hadn't remembered it.
She did, for a pretty long stretch of time --
even in Hollywood.
And yet, today, every day, in every way, Ellen counters
what too often divides us with the countless things
that bind us together -- inspires us to be better,
one joke, one dance at a time.
When The Candidate wins his race in the iconic 1972 film
of the same name, which continues, by the way, for
those of you who haven't seen it, and many of you are
too young -- perhaps the best movie about what
politics is actually like, ever.
He famously asks his campaign manager the
reflective and revealing question: "What do we do now?"
And like the man he played in that movie, Robert
Redford has figured it out and applied his talent and
charm to achieve success.
We admire Bob not just for his remarkable acting, but
for having figured out what to do next.
He created a platform for independent filmmakers with
the Sundance Institute.
He has supported our National Parks and our
natural resources as one of the foremost
conservationists of our generation.
He's given his unmatched charisma to unforgettable
characters like Roy Hobbs, Nathan Muir, and of course
the Sundance Kid, entertaining us for more
than half a century.
As an actor, director, producer, and as an
advocate, he has not stopped -- and apparently drives so
fast that he had breakfast in Napa and dinner in Salt Lake.
At 80 years young, Robert Redford has no plans
to slow down.
According to a recent headline, the movie, Sully
was the last straw.
We should never travel with Tom Hanks.
I mean, you think about, you got pirates, plane crashes,
you get marooned in airport purgatory, volcanoes --
something happens with Tom Hanks.
And yet somehow, we can't resist going where he wants
to take us.
He's been an accidental witness to history, a crusty
women's baseball manager, an everyman who fell in love
with Meg Ryan three times.
Made it seem natural to have a volleyball as your
best friend.
From a Philadelphia courtroom, to Normandy's
beachheads, to the dark side of the moon, he has
introduced us to America's unassuming heroes.
Tom says he just saw "ordinary guys who did the
right thing at the right time." Well, it takes one to
know one, and "America's Dad" has stood up to cancer
with his beloved wife, Rita.
He has championed our veterans, supported space
exploration, and the truth is, Tom has always saved his
best roles for real life.
He is a good man -- which is the best title you can have.
So we got innovators, entertainers -- three more
folks who've dedicated themselves to public service.
In the early 1960s, thousands of Cuban children
fled to America, seeking an education they'd never get
back home.
And one refugee was 15-year-old named Eduardo
Padron, whose life changed when he enrolled at Miami
Dade College.
That decision led to a bachelor's degree, then a
Master's degree, then a PhD, and then he had a choice --
he could go into corporate America, or he could give
back to his alma mater.
And Eduardo made his choice -- to create more stories
just like his.
As Miami Dade's President since 1995, Dr. Padron has
built a "dream factory" for one of our nation's most
diverse student bodies -- 165,000 students in all.
He's one of the world's preeminent education leaders
-- thinking out of the box, supporting students
throughout their lives, embodying the belief that
we're only as great as the doors we open.
Eduardo's example is one we all can follow -- a champion
for those who strive for the same American Dream that
first drew him to our shores.
When Elouise Cobell first filed a lawsuit to recover
lands and money for her people, she didn't set out
to be a hero.
She said, "I just give justice to
people that didn't have it." And her lifelong quest to
address the mismanagement of American Indian lands,
resources, and trust funds wasn't about special
treatment, but the equal treatment at the heart of
the American promise.
She fought for almost 15 years -- across three
Presidents, seven trials, 10 appearances before a federal
appeals court.
All the while, she traveled the country some 40 weeks a
year, telling the story of her people.
And in the end, this graduate of a one-room
schoolhouse became a MacArthur Genius.
She is a proud daughter of Montana's Blackfeet Nation.
Reached ultimately a historic victory for all
Native Americans.
Through sheer force of will and a belief that the truth
will win out, Elouise Cobell overcame the longest odds,
reminding us that fighting for what is right is always
worth it.
Now, every journalist in the room, every media critic
knows the phrase Newt Minow coined: the "vast
wasteland." But the two words Newt prefers we
remember from his speech to the nation's broadcasters
are these: "public interest." That's been the
heartbeat of his life's work -- advocating for residents
of public housing, advising a governor and Supreme Court
justice, cementing presidential debates as our
national institution, leading the FCC.
When Newt helped launch the first communications
satellites, making nationwide broadcasts
possible -- and eventually GPS possible and cellphones
possible -- he predicted it would be more important than
the moon landing.
"This will launch ideas into space," he said, "and ideas
last longer than people." As far as I know, he's the only
one of today's honorees who was present on my first date
with Michelle.
Imagine our surprise when we saw Newt, one of our bosses
that summer, at the movie theater -- Do the Right Thing.
So he's been vital to my personal interests.
And finally, we honor five of the all-time greats in
sports and music.
The game of baseball has a handful of signature sounds.
You hear the crack of the bat.
You got the crowd singing in the seventh inning stretch.
And you've got the voice of Vin Scully.
Most fans listen to a game's broadcast when they can't be
at the ballpark.
Generations of Dodger fans brought their radios into
the stands because you didn't want to miss one of
Vin's stories.
Most play-by-play announcers partner with an analyst in
the booth to chat about the action.
Vin worked alone and talked just with us.
Since Jackie Robinson started at second base, Vin
taught us the game and introduced us to its players.
He narrated the improbable years, the impossible
heroics, turned contests into conversations.
When he heard about this honor, Vin asked with
characteristic humility, "Are you sure?
I'm just an old baseball announcer." And we had to
inform him that to Americans of all ages, you are
an old friend.
In fact, I thought about him doing all these citations,
which would have been very cool, but I thought we
shouldn't make him sing for his supper like that.
"Up next" --
Here's how great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was: 1967, he
had spent a year dominating college basketball, the NCAA
bans the dunk.
They'd didn't say it was about Kareem, but it was
about Kareem.
When a sport changes its rules to make it harder just
for you, you are really good.
(laughter and applause)
And yet despite the rule change, he was still the
sport's most unstoppable force.
It's a title he'd hold for more than two decades,
winning NBA Finals MVPs a staggering 14 years apart.
(someone sneezes)
Bless you.
And as a surprisingly similar-looking co-pilot,
Roger Murdoch, once said in the movie, Airplane -- I
mean, we've got some great actors here --
Space Jam, Airplane.
He did it all while dragging Walton and Lanier up and
down the court for 48 minutes.
But the reason we honor Kareem is more than just a
pair of goggles and the skyhook.
He stood up for his Muslim faith when it wasn't easy
and it wasn't popular.
He's as comfortable sparring with Bruce Lee as he is
advocating on Capitol Hill or writing with
extraordinary eloquence about patriotism.
Physically, intellectually, spiritually -- Kareem is
one-of-a-kind -- an American who illuminates both our
most basic freedoms and our highest aspirations.
When he was five years old, Michael Jordan nearly cut
off his big toe with an axe.
Back then, his handles needed a little work.
But think -- if things had gone differently, Air Jordan
just might never have taken flight.
I mean, you don't want to buy a shoe with one toe missing.
We may never have seen him switch hands in mid-air
against the Lakers.
Or drop 63 in the Garden.
Or gut it out in the flu game.
Or hit "the shot" three different times -- over
Georgetown, over Ehlo, over Russell.
We might not have seen him take on Larry Bird in
H-O-R-S-E or lift up the sport globally along with
the Dream Team.
Yet MJ is still more than those moments; more than
just the best player on the two greatest teams of all
time -- the Dream Team and the Chicago '96 Bulls.
He's more than a logo, more than just an Internet meme.
More than just a charitable donor or a business owner
committed to diversity.
There is a reason you call someone "the Michael Jordan
of" -- Michael Jordan of neurosurgery, or the Michael
Jordan of rabbis, or the Michael Jordan of outrigger
canoeing -- and they know what you're talking about.
Because Michael Jordan is the Michael Jordan
of greatness.
He is the definition of somebody so good at what
they do that everybody recognizes them.
That's pretty rare.
As a child, Diana Ross loved singing and dancing for
family friends -- but not for free.
She was smart enough to pass the hat.
And later, in Detroit's Brewster housing projects,
she met Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard.
Their neighbor, Smokey Robinson, put them in front
of Berry Gordy -- and the rest was magic -- music history.
The Supremes earned a permanent place in the
American soundtrack.
Along with her honey voice, her soulful sensibility,
Diana exuded glamour and grace that filled stages
that helped to shape the sound of Motown.
On top of becoming one of the most successful
recording artists of all time, raised five kids --
somehow found time to earn an Oscar nomination for acting.
Today, from the hip-hop that samples her, to the young
singers who've been inspired by her, to the audiences
that still cannot get enough of her -- Diana Ross's
influence is inescapable as ever.
He was sprung from a cage out on Highway 9.
A quiet kid from Jersey, just trying to make sense of
the temples of dreams and mystery that dotted his
hometown -- pool halls, bars, girls and cars, altars
and assembly lines.
And for decades, Bruce Springsteen has brought us
all along on a journey consumed with the bargains
between ambition and injustice, and pleasure and
pain; the simple glories and scattered heartbreak of
everyday life in America.
To create one of his biggest hits, he once said, "I
wanted to craft a record that sounded like the last
record on Earth...the last one you'd ever need to hear.
One glorious noise...then the apocalypse." Every
restless kid in America was given a story: "Born to
Run." He didn't stop there.
Once he told us about himself, he told us about
everybody else.
The steelworker in "Youngstown." The Vietnam
Vet in "Born in the USA." The sick and the
marginalized on "The Streets of Philadelphia." The
firefighter carrying the weight of a reeling but
resilient nation on "The Rising." The young soldier
reckoning with "Devils and Dust" in Iraq.
The communities knocked down by recklessness and greed in
the "Wrecking Ball." All of us, with all our faults and
our failings, every color, and class, and creed, bound
together by one defiant, restless train rolling
toward "The Land of Hope and Dreams." These are all
anthems of our America; the reality of who we are, and
the reverie of who we want to be.
"The hallmark of a rock and roll band," Bruce
Springsteen once said, is that "the narrative you tell
together is bigger than anyone could have told on
your own." And for decades, alongside the Big Man,
Little Steven, a Jersey girl named Patti, and all the men
and women of the E Street Band, Bruce Springsteen has
been carrying the rest of us on his journey, asking us
all "what is the work for us to do in our short time
here." I am the President.
But he is The Boss.
And pushing 70, he's still laying down four-hour live
sets -- if you have been at them, he is working.
"Fire-breathing rock 'n' roll." So I thought twice
about giving him a medal named for freedom because we
hope he remains, in his words, a "prisoner of rock
'n' roll" for years to come.
So, I told you, this is like a really good class.
Ladies and gentlemen, I want you all to give it up for
the recipients of the 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom.
It is a good group.
All right.
Now we actually got to give them medals.
So please be patient.
We are going to have my military aide read
the citations.
Each one of them will come up and receive the medals,
and then we'll wrap up the program.
Let's hit it.
Military Aide: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
An iconic basketball player who revolutionized the sport
with his all-around play and signature skyhook, Kareem
Abdul-Jabbar is a 19-time All-Star, a 6-time world
champion, and the leading scorer in NBA history.
Adding to his achievements on the court he also left
his mark off of it, advocating for civil rights,
cancer research, science education, and social justice.
In doing so, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar leaves a
towering legacy of compassion, faith, and
service to others -- a legacy based not only on the
strength and grace of his athleticism, but on the
sharpness of his mind and the size of his heart.
Turk Cobell, accepting on behalf of his mother,
Elouise C. Cobell Yellowbird Woman.
A member of the Blackfeet Nation, Elouise Cobell spent
her life defying the odds and working on behalf
of her people.
As a young woman, she was told that she wasn't capable
of understanding accounting.
So she mastered the field -- and used her expertise to
champion a lawsuit whose historic settlement has
helped restore Tribal homelands to her beloved
Blackfeet Nation and many other Tribes.
Today, her tenacious and unwavering spirit lives on
in the thousands of people and hundreds of Tribes for
whom she fought and in all those she taught to believe
that it is never too late to right the wrongs of the past
and help shape a better future.
Ellen DeGeneres.
In a career spanning three decades, Ellen DeGeneres has
lifted our spirits and brought joy to our lives as
a stand-up comic, actor, and television star.
In every role, she reminds us to be kind to one another
and to treat people as each of us wants to be treated.
At a pivotal moment, her courage and candor helped
change the hearts and minds of millions of Americans,
accelerating our Nation's constant drive toward
equality and acceptance for all.
Again and again, Ellen DeGeneres has shown us that
a single individual can make the world a more fun, more
open, more loving place -- so long as we
"just keep swimming."
Robert De Niro.
For over 50 years, Robert De Niro has delivered some of
screen's most memorable performances, cementing his
place as one of the most gifted actors of
his generation.
From "The Godfather Part II" and "The Deer Hunter" to
"Midnight Run" and "Heat," his work is legendary for
its range and depth.
Relentlessly committed to his craft, De Niro embodies
his characters, creating rich, nuanced portraits that
reflect the heart of the human experience.
Regardless of genre or era, Robert De Niro continues to
demonstrate that extraordinary skill that has
made him one of America's most revered and
influential artists.
Richard L. Garwin.
One of the most renowned scientific and engineering
minds of our time, Dr. Richard Garwin has
always answered the call to help solve society's most
challenging problems.
He has coupled his pioneering work in defense
and intelligence technologies with leadership
that underscores the urgency for humanity to control the
spread of nuclear arms.
Through his advice to Republican and Democratic
administrations dating to President Eisenhower, his
contributions in fundamental research, and his inventions
that power technologies that drive our modern world,
Richard Garwin has contributed not only to this
Nation's security and prosperity, but to the
quality of life for people all over the world.
William H. Gates III and Melinda French Gates.
Few people have had the profound global impact of
Bill and Melinda Gates.
Through their work at the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation, they've demonstrated how the most
capable and fortunate among us have a responsibility to
use their talents and resources to tackle the
world's greatest challenges.
From helping women and girls lift themselves and their
families out of poverty to empowering young minds
across America, they have transformed countless lives
with their generosity and innovation.
Bill and Melinda Gates continue to inspire us with
their impatient optimism that, together, we can
remake the world as it should be.
Frank Gehry.
Never limited by conventional materials,
styles, or processes, Frank Gehry's bold and thoughtful
structures demonstrate architecture's power to
induce wonder and revitalize communities.
A creative mind from an early age, he began his
career by building imaginary homes and cities with scrap
material from his grandfather's hardware store.
Since then, his work continues to strike a
balance between experimentation and
functionality, resulting in some of the 20th century's
most iconic buildings.
From his pioneering use of technology to the dozens of
awe-inspiring sites that bear his signature style to
his public service as a citizen artist through his
work with Turnaround Arts, Frank Gehry has proven
himself an exemplar scholar of American innovation.
Margaret Heafield Hamilton.
A pioneer in technology, Margaret Hamilton defined
new forms of software engineering and helped
launch an industry that would forever change
human history.
Her software architecture led to giant leaps for
humankind, writing the code that helped America set foot
on the moon.
She broke barriers in founding her own software
businesses, revolutionizing an industry and inspiring
countless women to participate in STEM fields.
Her love of exploration and innovation are the source
code of the American spirit, and her genius has inspired
generations to reach for the stars.
Thomas J. Hanks.
Throughout a distinguished film career, Tom Hanks has
revealed the character of America, as well as his own.
Portraying war heroes, an astronaut, a ship captain, a
cartoon cowboy, a young man growing up too fast, and
dozens of others, he's allowed us to see ourselves
-- not only as we are, but as we aspire to be.
On screen and off, Tom Hanks has honored the sacrifices
of those who have served our Nation, called on us all to
think big and to believe, and inspired a new
generation of young people to reach for the sky.
(laughter and applause)
Deborah Murray, accepting on behalf of her great aunt,
Grace Murray Hopper.
As a child who loved disassembling alarm clocks,
Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper found her calling early.
A Vassar alumna with a Ph.D.
in mathematics from Yale, Hopper served in the Navy
during World War II, becoming one of the first
programmers in early computing.
Known today as the "Queen of Code," Grace Hopper's work
helped make the coding language more practical
and accessible.
She invented the first compiler, or translator, a
fundamental element of our now digital world.
"Amazing Grace" was committed to making the
language of computer programming more universal.
Today, we honor her contributions to computer
science and the sense of possibility she inspired in
generations of young people.
Michael J. Jordan.
(laughter and applause)
Powered by a drive to compete that earned him
every major award in basketball, including six
NBA championships, five Most Valuable Player awards, and
two gold medals, Michael Jordan has a name that's
become a synonym for excellence.
His wagging tongue and high-flying dunks redefined
the game, making him a global superstar whose
impact transcended basketball and shaped our
Nation's broader culture.
From the courts in Wilmington, Chapel Hill, and
Chicago to the owner's suite he occupies today, his life
and example have inspired millions of Americans to
strive to "Be Like Mike."
Maya Y. Lin.
Boldly challenging our understanding of the world,
Maya Lin's designs have brought people of all walks
of life together in spirits of remembrance,
introspection, and humility.
The manipulation of natural terrain and topography
within her works inspires us to bridge our differences
and recognize the gravity of our collective existence.
Her pieces have changed the landscape of our country and
influenced the dialogue of our society -- never more
profoundly than with her tribute to the Americans who
fell in Vietnam by cutting a wound into the Earth to
create a sacred place of healing in our
Nation's capital.
Lorne Michaels.
One of the most transformative entertainment
figures of our time, Lorne Michaels followed his dreams
to New York City, where he created a sketch show that
brought satire, wits, and modern comedy to homes
around the world.
Under his meticulous command as executive producer,
"Saturday Night Live" has entertained audiences across
generations, reflecting -- and shaping -- critical
elements of our cultural, political, and national life.
Lorne Michaels' creative legacy stretches into
late-night television, sitcoms, and the big screen,
making us laugh, challenging us to think, and raising the
bar for those who follow.
As one of his show's signature characters would
say, "Well, isn't that special?"
(laughter and applause)
Newton N. Minow.
As a soldier, counsel to the Governor of Illinois,
Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission,
and law clerk to the Chief Justice of the Supreme
Court, Newton Minow's career has been defined by his
devotion to others.
Deeply committed to his family, the law, and the
American people, his dedication to serving and
empowering the public is reflected in his efforts to
ensure that broadcast media educates and provides
opportunity for all.
Challenging the media to better serve their viewers,
his staunch commitment to the power of ideas and
information has transformed telecommunications and its
influential role in our society.
Dr. Eduardo J. Padrón.
As a teenage refugee from Cuba, Eduardo Padrón came to
the United States to pursue the American Dream, and he
has spent his life making that dream real for others.
As president of the community college he once
attended, his thoughtful leadership and commitment to
education have transformed Miami Dade College into one
of the premier learning institutions in the country,
earning him praise around the world.
His personal story and lasting professional
influence prove that success need not be determined by
our background, but by our dedication to others and our
passion for creating America that is as inclusive as it
is prosperous.
Robert Redford.
Robert Redford has captivated audiences from
both sides of the camera through entertaining motion
pictures that often explore vital social, political, and
historical themes.
His lifelong advocacy on behalf of preserving our
environment will prove as an enduring legacy as his
award-winning films, as will his pioneering support for
independent filmmakers across America.
His art and activism continue to shape our
Nation's cultural heritage, inspiring millions to laugh,
cry, think, and change.
Diana Ross.
(laughter and applause)
A daughter of Detroit, Diana Ross helped create the sound
of Motown with her iconic voice.
From her groundbreaking work with The Supremes to a solo
career that has spanned decades, she has influenced
generations of young artists and shaped our Nation's
musical landscape.
In addition to a GRAMMY© Lifetime Achievement Award
and countless musical accolades, Diana Ross has
distinguished herself as an actor, earning an Oscar
nomination and a Golden Globe Award.
With over 25 albums, unforgettable hit singles,
and live performances that continue to captivate
audiences around the world, Diana Ross still
reigns supreme.
Next up, Vin Scully.
(laughter and applause)
With a voice that transcended a sport and
transformed a profession, Vin Scully narrated
America's pastime for generations of fans.
Known to millions as the soundtrack of summer, he
found time to teach us about life and love while
chronicling routine plays and historic heroics.
In victory and in defeat, his colorful accounts
reverberated through the bleachers, across the
airwaves, and into our homes and imaginations.
He is an American treasure and a beloved storyteller,
and our country's gratitude for Vin Scully is as
profound as his love for the game.
Bruce F. Springsteen.
As a songwriter, a humanitarian, America's Rock
and Roll laureate, and New Jersey's greatest
ambassador, Bruce Springsteen is, quite
simply, The Boss.
Through stories about ordinary people, from
Vietnam veterans to steel workers, his songs capture
the pain and the promise of the American experience.
With his legendary E Street Band, Bruce Springsteen
leaves everything on stage in epic, communal live
performances that have rocked audiences for decades.
With empathy and honesty, he holds up a mirror to who we
are -- as Americans chasing our dreams, and as human
beings trying to do the right thing.
There's a place for everyone in Bruce
Springsteen's America.
Cicely Tyson.
For sixty years, Cicely Tyson has graced the screen
and the stage, enlightening us with her groundbreaking
characters and calls to conscience, humility, and hope.
Her achievements as an actor, her devotion to her
faith, and her commitment to advancing equality for all
Americans-especially women of color -- have touched
audiences of multiple generations.
From "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman," to
"Sounder," to "The Trip to Bountiful," Cicely Tyson's
performances illuminate the character of our people and
the extraordinary possibilities of America.
The President: So, just on a personal note, part of the
reason that these events are so special to me is because
everybody on this stage has touched me in a very
powerful, personal way -- in ways that they probably
couldn't imagine.
Whether it was having been inspired by a song, or a
game, or a story, or a film, or a monument, or in the
case of Newt Minow introducing me to Michelle --
-- these are folks who have helped make me who I am and
think about my presidency, and what also makes them
special is, this is America.
And it's useful when you think about this incredible
collection of people to realize that this is what
makes us the greatest nation on Earth.
Not because of what we --
Not because of our differences, but because, in
our difference, we find something common to share.
And what a glorious thing that is.
What a great gift that is to America.
So I want all of you to enjoy the wonderful
reception that will be taking place afterwards.
Michelle and I have to get back to work, unfortunately,
but I hear the food is pretty good.
And I would like all of you to give one big rousing
round of applause to our 2016 honorees for the
Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Give it up.
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President Obama Awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom

689 Folder Collection
TEAN published on April 7, 2017
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