President Barack Obama awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Oprah Winfrey, during an event in the East Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., November 20, 2013. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo
WASHINGTON, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- Sixteen Americans -- titans in science, communications, music, civil rights, government and sports -- received the Presidential Medal of Freedom Wednesday.
President Obama said recognizing "this extraordinary groups of individuals" this year with the nation's highest civilian honor was particularly special because it was the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the award by President John Kennedy.
The 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients "remind us all of the beauty of the human spirit, the values that define us as Americans and the potential that lies inside all of us."
"This medal has been bestowed on more than 500 deserving people," Obama said at the White House ceremony, adding he was honored to add 16 names to "this distinguished list."
The 2013 recipients are:
-- Ernie Banks: One of the greatest baseball players of all time. During his 19 seasons with the Chicago Cubs, "Mr. Cub" played in 11 All-Star Games, hit over 500 home runs, and became the first National League player to win Most Valuable Player honors in back-to-back years.
-- Ben Bradlee: Executive editor at The Washington Post who oversaw coverage of the Watergate scandal, successfully challenged the federal government over the right to publish the Pentagon Papers, among other things.
-- Bill Clinton: The 42nd President of the United States and former governor and attorney general in Arkansas. After his presidency, he established the Clinton Foundation to improve global health, strengthen economies, promote health and wellness, and protect the environment. He also formed the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund with former President George W. Bush in 2010.
-- Daniel Inouye (posthumous): The first Japanese-American to serve in Congress, representing Hawaii since it joined the United States until his death in 2012. As a young man, he fought in World War II with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and received the Medal of Honor. He was elected to the Hawaii Territorial House of Representatives, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate.
-- Daniel Kahneman: A pioneering scholar of psychology. After escaping Nazi occupation in World War II, Kahneman immigrated to Israel, where he served in the Israel Defense Forces and trained as a psychologist. With Amos Tversky, he applied cognitive psychology to economic analysis, laying the foundation for a new field of research and earning the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002.
-- Richard Lugar: A U.S. senator who represented Indiana for more than 30 years, Lugar is best known for his bipartisan leadership and decades-long commitment to reducing the threat of nuclear weapons. Before serving in Congress, Lugar was a Rhodes Scholar and mayor of Indianapolis.
-- Loretta Lynn: Raised in rural Kentucky, she became one of the first successful female country music vocalists in the early 1960s. Her accolades include the Kennedy Center Honors in 2003 and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.
-- Mario Molina: Born in Mexico, Molina came to America to pursue a graduate degree in chemistry and earned the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering how chlorofluorocarbons deplete the ozone layer.
-- Sally Ride (posthumous): The first American female astronaut to travel to space, Ride was a role model to generations of young women, advocated for science education and stood up for racial and gender equality in the classroom.
-- Bayard Rustin (posthumous): An openly gay activist for civil rights, dignity and equality for all, Rustin was an adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., promoting non-violent resistance, and was among the first Freedom Riders and organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
-- Arturo Sandoval: A celebrated jazz trumpeter, pianist, and composer, Sandoval defected from Cuba to the United States in 1990 and won international acclaim as a dynamic performer. He was awarded nine Grammy Awards and is considered one of the greatest living jazz artists.
-- Dean Smith: The dean of the hard court at the University of North Carolina, Dean earned two national championships, multiple National Coach of the Year honors and retired as the winningest men's college basketball coach in history. Smith also was a civil rights advocate during his career.
-- Gloria Steinem: A renowned writer and activist for women's equality, Steinem was a leader in the women's liberation movement, co-founded Ms. magazine, and helped launch a wide variety of groups and publications dedicated to advancing civil rights.
-- Cordy Tindell "C.T." Vivian: A leader in the Civil Rights Movement and friend to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Vivian participated in Freedom Rides and sit-ins across the country. Vivian also helped found numerous civil rights organizations, including Vision, the National Anti-Klan Network, and the Center for Democratic Renewal, and served as interim president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 2012.
-- Patricia Wald: After graduating as one of only 11 women in her Yale University Law School class, Wald became the first woman appointed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and served as chief judge from 1986-1991. She later served on the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands
-- Oprah Winfrey: One of the world's most successful broadcasters, Winfrey created "The Oprah Winfrey Show," which became the highest rated talk show in America for 25 years, and is also known for her work in philanthropy and expanding opportunities for young women.