Daily Video

August 13, 2009

White House Honors Medal of Freedom Recipients

President Barack Obama awarded 16 people with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a ceremony at the White House on Wednesday. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest award for civilians.

Among the list of honorees was retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, physicist Stephen Hawking and former tennis player Billie Jean King.

“These outstanding men and women represent an incredible diversity of backgrounds,” President Obama said during his remarks.

Their tremendous accomplishments span fields from science to sports, from fine arts to foreign affairs. Yet they share one overarching trait: Each has been an agent of change,” he said.

Quotes

“What unites them is a belief, that most — forgive me to those of you who are not Americans — but what we consider to be that most American of beliefs, that our lives are what we make of them, that no barriers of race, gender or physical infirmity can restrain the human spirit, and that the truest test of a person’s life is what we do for one another.” – President Barack Obama

“These extraordinary men and women, these agents of change remind us that excellence is not beyond our abilities, that hope lies around the corner, and that justice can still be won in the forgotten corners of this world.” – President Barack Obama

“There’s a story Ted Kennedy sometimes tells. It’s about a boy who sees an old man tossing starfish stranded by a receding tide back into the sea. “There are so many,” asks the boy. “What difference can your efforts possibly make?” The old man studies the starfish in his hand and tosses it to safety, saying, “It makes a difference to that one.” For nearly half a century, Ted Kennedy has been walking that beach.” – President Barack Obama

Warm Up Questions

1. Name some of the men and women who inspire you. Explain why.

2. Name the most prominent people in America today. What makes them important? What qualities do they share?

Discussion Questions

1. You can look at the list of recipients here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2009-Medal-of-Freedom-Recipients/

Are you especially familiar with the work of any of the candidates? Which person inspires you the most and why?

2. Are there any particular people you think deserve a Medal of Freedom for their achievements?

3. In his remarks, President Obama said, “These outstanding men and women represent an incredible diversity of backgrounds. Their tremendous accomplishments span fields from science to sports, from fine arts to foreign affairs. Yet they share one overarching trait: Each has been an agent of change.”

Pick one or two of the honorees and write a short essay about the specific ways they were able to be “agents of change” in their fields.

Additional Resources

Read the transcript

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