Page last updated at 21:56 GMT, Wednesday, 12 August 2009 22:56 UK

US honours 16 'agents of change'


Obama awards medals of freedom

President Barack Obama has awarded the highest US civilian honour - the Presidential Medal of Freedom - to 16 people praised as "agents of change".

Recipients included South African human rights champion Archbishop Desmond Tutu and British scientist Stephen Hawking.

Tennis player Billie Jean King and former Irish President Mary Robinson were also honoured at the White House.

Posthumous medals were awarded to US gay-rights activist Harvey Milk and Republican Senator Jack Kemp.

US President Barack Obama awards Archbishop Desmond Tutu with the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, 12 August 2009
Archbishop Tutu received his medal at the White House ceremony

Veteran US Senator Edward Kennedy was among the recipients, but his fight against brain cancer meant he was too ill to attend the ceremony.

Mr Obama said: "These extraordinary men and women, these agents of change, remind us that excellence is not beyond our abilities, that hope lies around the corner, and that justice can still be won in the forgotten corners of this world."

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is given to individuals who have "made an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, or world peace, or cultural or other significant public or private endeavours".

Previous recipients have included former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former South African President Nelson Mandela.

Print Sponsor

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific