Steven Spielberg, Gloria Estefan, Barbra Streisand and James Taylor were among the seventeen extraordinary trailblazers who received the American highest civilian award - 'Medal of Freedom'- from President Barack Obama at the white House on November 24.
Award-winning movie director Steven Spielberg, actress Gloria Estefan and music icons Barbra Streisand and James Taylor were among the seventeen extraordinary trailblazers who received the American highest civilian award - 'Medal of Freedom'- from President Barack Obama at the white House on November 24.
"She has collected just about every honor and award that there is – I couldn't believe she hadn't gotten this one," Obama said in his opening statement about Streisand.
"Off the stage, she has been a passionate advocate for issues like heart disease and women's equality. I'm getting all verklempt just thinking about it," the president said, making a joke in Yiddish, and citing the Saturday Night Live skit "Coffee Talk"
For the special ceremony, Obama demonstrated his comedic talents, quipping about Spielberg's A-list connections: "Someone is calling him looking for a deal right now. They want to make a pitch, 'So there is this really good looking president…'"
While, Taylor was introduced with a speech featuring lyrics from his hit song "Fire and Rain." "You always feel like he's singing only to you. That's why he's become one of the driving forces of the singer-songwriter movement," said the president.
And Estefan – along with husband Emilio – was acknowledged for their cultural impact. "Some worried they were too American for Latins and too Latin for Americans; turns out everybody just wanted to dance and do the conga."
Other recipients included composer Stephen Sondheim, baseball greats Yogi Berra (who received the award posthumously) and Willie Mays, veterans activist Bonnie Carroll, former Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton, NASA mathematician Katherine G. Johnson, Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski, violinist and conductor Itzhak Perlman and former EPA administrator William Ruckelshaus.
Posthumous honors were also given to Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American congresswoman, Native American rights activist Billy Frank Jr. and human rights leader Minoru Yasui.