The White House announced the names of 21 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom Wednesday.
President Barack Obama said the award underscores the idea that everyone can contribute to improving the country despite their station in life.
“From scientists, philanthropists and public servants to activists, athletes and artists, these 21 individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way,” the president said in a statement.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor. It’s presented to individuals who made amazing contributions to the nation’s security or interests, global peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
Obama will present the medals to the honorees at a White House ceremony on Nov. 22. They include:
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar—the NBA’s all-time leading scorer who helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers to five championships and the Milwaukee Bucks to another.
Elouise Cobell (posthumous)—Blackfeet Tribal Community leader and advocate for Native American self-determination and financial independence.
Ellen DeGeneres—award-winning comedian who has hosted her popular daytime talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, since 2003.
Robert De Niro—a seven-time Academy Award nominee and two-time Oscar winner.
Richard Garwin—polymath physicist who earned a Ph.D. at 21 and contributed to U.S. defense and intelligence technologies.
Bill and Melinda Gates—established the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, providing more than $36 billion in grants since its inception.
Frank Gehry—a leading architect whose works have helped define contemporary architecture.
Margaret H. Hamilton—led the team that created the on-board flight software for NASA’s Apollo command modules and lunar modules.
Tom Hanks—nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role five times and received the award for his work in Philadelphia and Forrest Gump.
Grace Hopper (posthumous)—known as “Amazing Grace” and “The first lady of software,” was a pioneer of computer programming from the 1940s.
Michael Jordan—played 15 seasons in the NBA, winning six championships, five Most Valuable Player awards and appeared in 14 All-Star games.
Maya Lin—artist and designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Lorne Michaels—a producer and screenwriter, best known for creating and producing Saturday Night Live.
Newt Minow—as chairman of the FCC, he shaped television and advocated for public interest broadcasting.
Eduardo Padrón—president of Miami Dade College who advocates for access and inclusion.
Robert Redford—actor, director, producer, businessman and environmentalist, founder of the Sundance Institute to advance the work of independent filmmakers.
Diana Ross—legendary Motown R&B singer, Academy Award nominee and Grammy Award winner.
Vin Scully—broadcaster for 67 seasons for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Bruce Springsteen—singer, songwriter and bandleader.
Cicely Tyson—won two Emmy Awards and a Tony Award, best known for her performances in Sounder and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.