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Bill Russell, Warren Buffett, 13 others awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

Compiled by Ian Saleh
Washington Post Staff
Tuesday, February 15, 2011; 4:19 PM

President Obama awarded 15 recipients the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Tuesday, as Perry Bacon Jr. reported:

President Obama spent nearly every day for two years blasting his son on the campaign trail. But Obama has long praised former President George H.W. Bush, particularly for his foreign policy decisions, and on Tuesday he presented the 41st president with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Bush was one of 15 who received the award, including NBA Hall of Famer Bill Russell, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and billionaire investor Warren Buffett. (Buffett is a member of the Washington Post Co. board.)

"We honor George Herbert Walker Bush for service to America that spanned nearly 70 years," Obama said of the first President Bush in brief remarks. He praised for him a "steady diplomatic hand" that helped in "ending the Cold War without firing a shot."

The award, the highest honor from the U.S. government that any person can receive unless they serve in the military, is given to individuals with "especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors," according to the White House.

Two Hall of Fame athletes, Bill Russell and Stan Musial were awarded the Medal of Freedom, as Cindy Boren explained:

Two Hall of Fame athletes, Bill Russell and Stan Musial, were among 15 people honored by President Barack Obama with the Medal of Freedom as "the best of who we are and who we aspire to be."

Russell played on two NCAA basketball championship teams at San Francisco, an Olympic gold-medal-winning team and 11 NBA championship teams with the Boston Celtics. He also was the first black coach in the NBA.

Musial played on three World Series-winning teams with the St. Louis Cardinals and three times was National League MVP.

The awards ceremony for the Medal of Freedom even affected the contract talks for Albert Pujols, as Early Lead reported:

Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to move their deadline for a contract extension from Tuesday to noon Wednesday because Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan Musial is being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Tuesday at the White House.

"Tomorrow is a very big day for Stan Musial," Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak said via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "It wouldn't make any sense to have a large distraction on that special day given the amount of respect we have for that man. It only made sense to make sure that we didn't have a whole lot of things going on given the events tomorrow in Washington."

Previously, the deadline for a deal for Pujols, who can become a free agent after the season, was Tuesday night.

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