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Bill Clinton, Ernie Banks, Oprah to get Medal of Freedom

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Bill Clinton, Ernie Banks, Oprah to get Medal of Freedom
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America meeting on June 14, 2013 in Chicago. The working meeting brings together leaders from business, foundation, NGO and government sectors to develop solutions that increase employment, advance access to education, strengthen energy security and promote an environment for business growth and innovation. UPI/Brian Kersey | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- Former President Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Ernie Banks and Gloria Steinem are among 16 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom announced Thursday.

President Obama named the group that will receive the nation's highest civilian honor this year on the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's executive order establishing the medal.

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Clinton, the 42nd U.S. president, was cited for creating the Clinton Foundation to improve world health, wellness and the environment, and his relief efforts for Haiti with former President George W. Bush after the 2010 earthquake that devastated the Caribbean island nation.

Former talk show queen Winfrey, a Kennedy Center honoree in 2010, has long been active in philanthropic causes and programs to help young women.

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Known as "Mr. Cub," Ernie Banks played 19 seasons with the Chicago Cubs and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1977.

Steinem, a writer and women's rights activist, co-founded Ms. magazine and was a leader in the women's equality movement.

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Other honorees include former University of North Carolina head basketball coach Dean Smith, former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradley, late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii., pioneer psychology scholar Daniel Kahneman, former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., country music legend singer Loretta Lynn, chemist and environmental scientist Mario Molina; late astronaut Sally Ride, the first U.S. female astronaut to travel in space, late civil rights activist Bayard Ruskin, jazz trumpeter, pianist and composer Auturo Sandova, minister and civil rights organizer Rev. Cordy Tindell "C.T." Vivian and former Chief U.S. Appellate Judge Patricia Wald, the first woman appointed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

"The Presidential Medal of Freedom goes to men and women who have dedicated their own lives to enriching ours," said Obama in a statement. "This year's honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world."

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