Entertainment

Obama’s Celeb-Heavy Medal of Freedom Picks

Winners include Ellen DeGeneres, Bruce Springsteen, Robert De Niro, and Robert Redford

Checking off another thing on his list of things to do before he exits the Oval Office, President Obama has awarded 21 new recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The award is the nation’s “highest civilian honor, 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,” according to the White House.

The celebrity-heavy list of recipients who were presented with their medals at a White House ceremony on Tuesday, includes two people recognized posthumously, two former NBA stars, a handful of actors, an architect, two scientists, and more. Ellen DeGeneres cried when President Obama placed it around her neck.

“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,” Obama said in a White House announcement. He added that these “individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way.”

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The list:

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 69, 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. Of late, Abdul-Jabbar has been an outspoken advocate for social justice.

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Elouise Cobell (posthumous)
Elouise Cobell was a Blackfeet Tribal community leader and an advocate for Native American self-determination and financial independence. Cobell helped found the Native American Bank, served as director of the Native American Community Development Corporation, and inspired Native American women to seek leadership roles in their communities.

Ellen DeGeneres
Ellen DeGeneres, 58, has hosted her popular daytime talk show since 2003. She has been the voice of Dory in 2003 hit, “Finding Nemo,” and this year’s “Finding Dory.” Ellen hosted the Academy Awards twice, in 2007 and 2014. She has been a passionate advocate for equality and fairness.

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Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro, 73, is a seven-time Oscar nominee, two-time Oscar winner and a Kennedy Center honoree — and let’s not forget that he said he want to “punch” Donald Trump, now president-elect, in the face.

Richard Garwin
Richard Garwin, 88, is a polymath physicist who earned a Ph.D. under Enrico Fermi at age 21 and subsequently made pioneering contributions to U.S. defense and intelligence technologies, low-temperature and nuclear physics, detection of gravitational radiation, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computer systems, laser printing, and nuclear arms control and nonproliferation. A winner of the National Medal of Science, Garwin holds 47 U.S. patents, and has advised numerous administrations.

Bill and Melinda Gates
Bill, 61, and Melinda Gates, 52, established their charitable foundation in 2000 to focus on lifting people out of hunger and poverty around the world. The Gates Foundation has provided more than $36 billion in grants since its inception.

Frank Gehry
Frank Gehry, 87, has helped define contemporary architecture, with buildings including the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the Dancing House in Prague, and the Guggenheim Museum building in Bilbao, Spain. The Canadian-born Gehry said last week that he was considering moving to France if Donald Trump won the election — so he might not be around to pick up his award.

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Margaret H. Hamilton
A mathematician and computer scientist who started her own software company, Margaret Hamilton, 80, co-created the concepts of asynchronous software, priority scheduling, and human-in-the-loop decision capability, which set the foundation for modern, ultra-reliable software design and engineering.

Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks, 60, is not only an esteemed actor but an advocate for social and environmental justice, and for our veterans and families.

Grace Hopper (posthumous)
Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, known as “Amazing Grace” and “the first lady of software,” was at the forefront of computers and programming development from the 1940s through the 1980s. She taught mathematics as an associate professor at Vassar College before joining the United States Naval Reserve as a lieutenant (junior grade) during World War II, where she became one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer and began her lifelong leadership role in the field of computer science.

Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan, 53, is one of the greatest athletes of all time, having played 15 seasons in the NBA for the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards. He is now 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.

Maya Lin
Maya Lin is an artist and designer who is known for designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. An environmentalist, Lin, 57, is currently working on a multi-sited artwork/memorial titled “What is Missing?” designed to bring awareness to the planet’s biodiversity.

Lorne Michaels
Lorne Michaels, 71, is a producer and screenwriter, best known for creating and producing “Saturday Night Live,” which has run continuously for more than 40 years. Also known for other shows such as “30 Rock,” Michaels has won 13 Emmy Awards over the course of his lengthy career.

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Newt Minow
In 1961, President Kennedy selected attorney Newt Minow, then 34, to serve as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), where he helped shape the future of American television and was a vigorous advocate for broadcasting that promoted the public interest. In the five decades since leaving the FCC, Minow has maintained a prominent private law practice while devoting himself to numerous public and charitable causes.

Eduardo Padrón
Eduardo Padrón, 72, is the president of Miami Dade College (MDC), one of the largest institutions of higher education in the United States. During his more than four-decade career, President Padrón has been a national voice for access and inclusion.

Robert Redford
Robert Redford — actor, director, producer, businessman, and environmentalist — founded the Sundance Institute in 1981 to advance the work of independent filmmakers and storytellers throughout the world. Redford, 80, has directed or starred in dozens of movies including “The Candidate,” “All the President’s Men,” “Quiz Show,” and “A River Runs Through It.” He recently announced he’ll retire after his next two movies.

Diana Ross
Diana Ross, 72, has had a long career spanning music, film, television, theater, and fashion. She’s 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 a 2007 Kennedy Center Honor.

Vin Scully
Vin Scully, 88, is a legendary broadcaster who, for 67 seasons, was the voice of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1988, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen, another vocal anti-Trump celebrity, is a singer, songwriter, and bandleader. Springsteen, 67, is a Kennedy Center honoree, and he and the E Street Band have each been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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Cicely Tyson
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.” Tyson, 91, received a Kennedy Center Honor in 2015.

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