Today, in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, President Obama honored 16 individuals, including Sally Ride and Bayard Rustin, for their “especially meritorious” contributions to American society.
Sally Ride’s partner Tam O’Shaughnessy and Bayard Rustin’s partner Walter Naegle accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom on their loved ones’ behalf.
As a pioneering NASA astronaut and science education advocate, Sally Ride was both the first American woman and the youngest American to be launched into space.
Bayard Rustin was the chief architect of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the key strategist in every campaign waged by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and a passionate advocate for pacifism, worker’s rights and freedom for marginalized individuals around the world.
Additional honorees at today's ceremony included former president Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Gloria Steinem.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, began 50 years ago, under President John F. Kennedy. The award is bestowed by the President of the United States and is—along with the comparable Congressional Gold Medal — bestowed by an act of U.S. Congress.