Dylan, Albright, 11 others get top U.S. civilian honor

Rock legend Bob Dylan receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Tuesday. Madeleine Albright, former Ohio Sen. John Glenn, and 10 others also received America's top civilian honor. Story, photos on A2.
Rock legend Bob Dylan receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Tuesday. Madeleine Albright, former Ohio Sen. John Glenn, and 10 others also received America's top civilian honor. Story, photos on A2. (OLIVIER DOULIERY / Abaca Press, MCT)
Posted: May 31, 2012

Music icon Bob Dylan and Madeleine Albright, the first woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state, were among 13 people honored Tuesday as President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Freedom.

"What sets these men and women apart is the incredible impact they have had on so many people, not in short blinding bursts, but steadily over the course of a lifetime," Obama said during a ceremony at the White House.

The medal is the nation's highest civilian honor. It is presented to people for "especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the U.S., to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

Israeli President Shimon Peres, who will receive his award at a separate event, was among the honorees.

Obama also honored former astronaut and Ohio Sen. John Glenn; former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, the third longest-serving justice in history; and John Doar, a lawyer who played key roles in the civil rights era and Watergate investigation.

From the arts, Obama included novelist Toni Morrison, the first African American woman to win the Novel Peace Prize in 1993, and Dylan, who has written more than 600 songs.

The president also honored epidemiologist William Foege, who helped lead the 1970s effort to eliminate smallpox; farmworker organizer Dolores Huerta, who helped found the group that became the United Farmworkers of America; and Pat Summitt, the former University of Tennessee women's basketball coach and Alzheimer's-patient advocate.

Awards were given posthumously to Jan Karski, the Polish officer who provided the world some of the first accounts of the Holocaust; Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low; and Gordon Hirabayashi, who protested Japanese American internment during World War II.

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