10 Receive America's Highest Civilian Award
In a White House ceremony this morning, President Bush awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, to 10 distinguished Americans, calling them "some of the finest citizens the Almighty has ever produced."
The award, first established President Harry Truman in 1945 to honor civilians for their efforts during World War II, recognizes high achievement in public service, science, the arts, education, athletics, and other fields.
Those receiving the awards today were:
-- Ruth Johnson Colvin. The literacy advocate has traveled the globe to help people learn reading and language skills.
-- Norman C. Francis. The president of Xavier University of Louisiana for nearly 40 years, he has also played a lead role in helping the people of the Gulf Coast recover from Hurricane Katrina.
-- Paul Johnson. The historian and journalist is being honored for writings that have "captivated and educated people around the world."
-- B.B. King. The singer and guitarist is considered the King of Blues and an American legend.
-- Joshua Lederberg. The Nobel Prize winner for his work in bacterial genetics had also helped develop advanced computer technology, worked with NASA in the search for life on Mars, and been a scientific adviser to national policymakers.
-- David McCullough. The noted author and historian is considered a leading expert on the American presidency.
-- Norman Y. Mineta. The former transportation secretary, appointed to that job by Bush, became the longest-serving person in the position. He also served as a mayor, a congressman and as President Bill Clinton's commerce secretary.
-- John "Buck" O'Neil. The former professional baseball player in the Negro Leagues was the first black coach in Major League Baseball and a co-founder of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. He died earlier this year.
-- William Safire. The writer and commentator is being honored for polishing the nation's language and elevating the debates of the day.
-- Natan Sharansky. The former prisoner of the Soviet regime, punished at the time for advancing religious liberty and human rights, has continued to champion freedom. He had previously been invited to the White House by Bush to discuss his book, "The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror."
The Medal of Freedom was established by President Harry S. Truman in 1945 to recognize civilians for their efforts during World War II. The award was reinstated by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 to honor distinguished service.