President Barack Obama paid tribute to the legacy of the past and the politics of the present by awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the nation’s highest civilian honor – to 16 people.
Among those receiving Presidential Medal of Freedom in Wednesday ceremony are former President Bill Clinton, iconic talk show host Oprah Winfrey and late astronaut Sally Ride.
Barack also paid tribute to the memory of President John F. Kennedy.
“This is one of my favorite events every year,” said Barack Obama.
“This year it’s just a little more special, because this marks the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy establishing this award.”
Barack Obama noted that members of the Kennedy clan were in attendance: Robert Kennedy’s widow, Ethel Kennedy, and JFK’s grandson and son of Caroline Kennedy, Jack Schlossberg.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is “presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors,” says the White House.
Later in the day, presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton – and first ladies Michelle Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton – pay another tribute to JFK with a visit to his grave site at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
The Obamas and Clintons will lay a wreath near the eternal flame that marks JFK’s final resting place.
The 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination is Friday, November 22.
Barack Obama will again speak about JFK’s legacy during a dinner for the Medal of Freedom honorees at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
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