This afternoon, President Barack Obama will present 16 people with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It is the highest honor that can be awarded to a civilian. Among this year's honorees are Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Stephen Hawking, U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, tennis legend Billie Jean King, and retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Also receiving a medal tonight is Ambassador Nancy Goodman Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the largest breast cancer awareness organization in the world. She has just been appointed as the first "Cancer Ambassador" to the World Health Organization and she tells about her work and the award.
Want to watch the awards ceremony? The ceremony with President Barack Obama will begin at 2 p.m. central time and be carried on a live stream at whitehouse.gov.
For a full list of recipients of the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom, click through.
The 2009 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom are:
- Nancy Goodman Brinker is the founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s leading breast cancer grass roots organization. She is the first-ever World Health Organization's Goodwill Ambassador for Cancer Control.
- Dr. Pedro Jose Greer is a physician and the Assistant Dean at the Florida International University School of Medicine, and the founder of Camillus Health Concern, an agency that provides medical care to over 10,000 homeless patients a year in the city of Miami. He is also the recipient of three Papal Medals as well as a MacArthur "genius grant".
- Stephen Hawking is an internationally-recognized theoretical physicist who has a severe physical disability due to motor neuron disease. He is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University and author of A Brief History of Time.
- Jack Kemp served as a U.S. Congressman, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Republican nominee for Vice President, and was a professional football player who led the Buffalo Bills to American Football League championships in 1964 and 1965.
- Senator Edward M. Kennedy has served in the United States Senate for 46 years and has dedicated his career to fighting for equal opportunity, fairness and justice for all Americans.
- Billie Jean King was an acclaimed professional tennis player in the 1960s and 1970s and has helped champion gender equality and gay rights issues.
- Reverend Joseph Lowery has been a leader in the U.S. civil rights movement since the early 1950s.
- Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow is the last living Plains Indian war chief and is the author of seminal works in Native American history and culture.
- Harvey Milk was the first openly gay elected official from a major city in the United States when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.
- Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman ever to sit on the United States Supreme Court.
- Sidney Poitier is a groundbreaking actor, who was the top black movie star in the 1950s and 1960s and the first African American to be nominated and win a Best Actor Academy Award.
- Chita Rivera is an actress, singer, and dancer, who has won Two Tony Awards and was the first Hispanic recipient of the coveted Kennedy Center Honor.
- Mary Robinson was the first female President of Ireland and a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
- Janet Davison Rowley is an American human geneticist and the first scientist to identify a chromosomal translocation as the cause of leukemia and other cancers.
- Desmond Tutu is an Anglican Archbishop emeritus who was a leading anti-apartheid activist in South Africa.
- Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, who pioneered the use of "micro-loans" to provide credit to poor individuals without collateral.