Published May 29 2012
Obama honors Bob Dylan, Medal of Freedom recipients
A number of figures from the struggles and shifts of the 1960s were recognized Tuesday. Civil rights campaigner Dolores Huerta and astronaut John Glenn also received the medal.
The year 1962 looms especially large in President Barack Obama’s picks: that was the year Dylan put out his first album, when Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers Association and when Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth.
The medal is the country’s highest civilian honor and the president has wide latitude in picking recipients. It is awarded to people who have made major contributions to the security of the United States, world peace, culture or who have undertaken “other significant public or private endeavors.”
Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers, with Cesar Chavez. Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, Huerta worked to extend social programs to farm workers in California. President Bill Clinton awarded Chavez the medal in 1994, shortly after his death.
The medal itself hangs from a blue ribbon and is made up of a blue disc filled with stars layered on white star and red pentagon surrounded by gold eagles.
Former Department of Justice civil rights lawyer John Doar, epidemiologist William Foege, novelist Toni Morrison, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and college basketball coach Pat Summitt also received the award.
Gordon Hirabayashi, who fought against the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II; Jan Karski, an officer in the Polish Underground in the war; and Juliette Gordon Low, who founded the Girl Scouts, were honored posthumously.
Israeli President Shimon Peres will also receive the award, but will attend a separate ceremony some time later this year.