Obama honors Harvey Milk, Billie Jean King with the Medal of Freedom

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Harvey Milk Medal of FreedomIn a ceremony at the White House today, Barack Obama honored slain gay civil rights leader Harvey Milk and lesbian tennis great Billie Jean King with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Obama on Harvey Milk:

“His name was Harvey Milk. And he was here to recruit us. All of us.  To join a movement and change a nation. For much of his early life he had silenced himself. In the prime of his life, he was silenced by the act of another. But in the brief time in which he spoke, and ran and led, his voice stirred the aspirations of millions of people. He would become after several attempts, one of the first openly gay Americans elected to public office, and his message of hope, hope unashamed, unafraid, could not ever be silenced. It was Harvey who said it best. “You gotta give them hope.”

Complete list of recipients below the clip. Obama speaks of Milk around the 8:08 mark.

Medal of Freedom Recipients

Nancy Goodman Brinker
Founder of Susan G Komen for the Cure, a prominent US organisation that raises money for breast cancer research

Dr Pedro Jose Greer Jr
Physician and founder of organisations that provide medical care to Miami’s poor and homeless

Stephen Hawking
Cambridge University physicist and author of popular science books. Hawking is severely disabled from motor neuron disease.

Jack Kemp
Republican politician and retired professional football player who passed away in May. A longtime member of the House of Representatives, Kemp was the party’s 1996 vice-presidential candidate.

Senator Edward Kennedy
Younger brother of President John F Kennedy and Senator Robert Kennedy, Kennedy is known as a “liberal lion” in the US Senate for his championing of healthcare reform and civil rights.

Billie Jean King
Retired professional tennis player and one of the first openly lesbian sports figures. King defeated former number one player Bobby Riggs in the celebrated 1973 “battle of the sexes” match.

Reverend Joseph Lowery
Civil rights leader and co-founder with Martin Luther King Jr of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Lowery gave the benediction at Barack Obama’s inauguration.

Joe Medicine Crow
The last living war chief of the American Indians of the US Great Plains, according to the White House, and the author of seminal works of American Indian culture and history. While a soldier in the second world war, Medicine Crow stole 50 Nazi SS horses from a German camp.

Harvey Milk
The first openly gay elected official of a major city, Milk, a San Francisco supervisor, was assassinated in 1978. He is revered as a founder of the gay rights movement.

Sandra Day O’Connor
The first woman on the US supreme court, appointed by President Ronald Reagan.

Sidney Poitier
The first African-American to win an Oscar for best actor, Poitier starred in the first mainstream movies to portray romantic interracial relationships.

Chita Rivera
A prominent Hispanic singer and actress, Rivera played Anita in the film of West Side Story. She has won two Tony awards and been nominated seven more times.

Mary Robinson
First female president of Ireland, and a former UN high commissioner for human rights.

Janet Davison Rowley
A Chicago geneticist and cancer researcher, Rowley identified the genetic basis of leukaemia, lymphoma and other cancers.

Desmond Tutu
A South African anti-apartheid leader and Anglican archbishop emeritus. Won the Nobel peace prize in 1984 for his efforts at racial reconciliation.

Muhammad Yunus
Pioneer of microloans – small, low-interest loans to the poor extended without collateral. Yunus won the Nobel peace prize for his Grameen Bank’s efforts in his native Bangladesh and elsewhere.

Post by ILO on 08/12/09 at 12:54 pm