BY KAREN WEBB
What a great birthday gift. President Obama is handing out the 2009 Medals of Freedom on Aug. 12, and he is doing it on my birthday, but he doesn’t know that.
The real gift is some of the people being honored. Many of them I have not heard of, but …
Harvey Milk was the first openly gay elected official from a major city in the United States. He was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, and encouraged LGBT citizens to live their lives openly.
Desmond Tutu is widely regarded as “South Africa’s moral conscience,” and was a leading anti-apartheid activist in South Africa.
Sen. Edward Kennedy is one of the longest-serving and greatest senators of all time. He has worked tirelessly for health care reform over the last five decades.
Stephen Hawking is an internationally-recognized theoretical physicist, and is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University.
Billie Jean King is known for winning the famous “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match, and championing gender equality issues not only in sports, but in all aspects of life.
Sidney Poitier is an actor known for breaking racial barriers. He is the first African-American to be nominated and win a Best Actor Academy Award.
Chita Rivera is an actress, singer and dancer, who has broken barriers and inspired a generation of women. In 2002, she was the first Hispanic to receive the Kennedy Center Honor.
Rev. Joseph Lowery has been a leader of the civil rights movement since the 1950s, and co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr. Martin Luther King.
Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow is the last living Plains Indian war chief, and author of works on Native American history and culture who has served as an inspiration to young Native Americans across the country.
The entire list is here: