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Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom

What is the Presidential Medal of Freedom?

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is America's highest civilian honor. The medal is awarded to Americans who make "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States or to world peace or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors." The award is "given only after careful thought, always sparingly so not to debase its currency."

Though it may be awarded for singular acts of momentous import, it is generally offered only for a lifetime of service or at the conclusion of a distinguished career.

When was the Presidential Medal of Freedom Established?

In 1963 President John F. Kennedy established the medal and broadened the scope by which awardees will be determined.

Who are the most recent recipients of the award?

In 2009 President Barack Obama awarded 16 citizens the award.

  • Pedro Jose Greer Jr.
  • Stephen Hawking,
  • Jack Kemp
  • Billie Jean King
  • Joseph Lowery
  • Joe Medicine Crow
  • Nancy Goodman Baker
  • Harvey Milk
  • Sandra Day O'Connor
  • Sidney Poitier
  • Chita Rivera
  • Mary Robinson
  • Janet Davidson Rowley
  • Desmond Tutu
  • Muhammad Yunus
  • Edward Kennedy

What Notable Sports Figures have won the Presidential Medal of Freedom?

Seven Professional Baseball players and 11 sports figures have received the award.

Baseball Player Awardees:

  • Ted Williams (1991)
  • Jackie Robinson (1984)
  • Joe DiMaggio (1977)
  • Buck O'Neil (2006)
  • Hank Aaron (2005)
  • Roberto Clemente (2003)
  • Frank Robinson (2005)

Sports Figures Awardees:

  • Jesse Owens (1977)
  • Billy Jean King (2009)
  • Muhammad Ali (2005)
  • Arthur Ashe (1993)
  • Earl "Red" Blaik (1986)
  • Paul "Bear" Bryant (1983)
  • Robert Kiphuth (1963)
  • Jack Nicklaus (2005)
  • Arnold Palmer (2004)
  • Richard Petty (1992)
  • John Wooden (2003)
  • Jack Kemp (2009)