WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- Politicians, a billionaire, a poet, a musician, ex-athletes and activists were among 15 who will receive presidential medals, the White House said Wednesday.
In addition to billionaire investor Warren Buffett and former Boston Celtics star Russell, the "individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interest of the United States" include former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and poet-author-actress Maya Angelou.
Other recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom will include: American artist Jasper Johns; John H. Adams, co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council; Jewish writer and Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein; cellist Yo-Yo-Ma; civil rights activist Sylvia Mendez; Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Stan "The Man" Musial; Jean Kennedy Smith, founder of the non-profit VSA organization to promote artistic talents of those with disabilities; and AFL-CIO President Emeritus John J. Sweeney.
Dr. Tom Little, an optometrist killed in Afghanistan on a humanitarian mission Aug. 6 will be awarded the medal posthumously. Little ran the NOOR (Persian for "light") program for the International Assistance Mission.
"These outstanding honorees come from a broad range of backgrounds and they've excelled in a broad range of fields, but all of them have lived extraordinary lives that have inspired us, enriched our culture, and made our country and our world a better place," President Barack Obama said in a statement.
"I look forward to awarding them this honor."
The awards will be presented at a White House ceremony early next year.