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Tom Hanks, Bruce Springsteen Among Obama's Last Medal of Freedom Recipients

President Barack Obama selected 21 key figures who will be awarded.
Image:  Bruce Springsteen performs onstage at Madison Square Garden
Bruce Springsteen performs onstage at Madison Square Garden on March 28, 2016 in New York City.Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images
/ Source: Reuters

In one of his final acts in office, President Barack Obama selected key figures in sports, entrepreneurship, philanthropy, activism, academia and entertainment among the 21 people who will be awarded the 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest civilian honor in the United States.

Obama will present recipients including rocker Bruce Springsteen, Motown soul singer Diana Ross, former basketball champions Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and actors Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro and Robert Redford with the medal at a White House ceremony on Nov. 22, the White House said on Wednesday.

Dee Kareem Abdul-Jabbar speaks onstage during the Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Vocals Competition 2015 at Dolby Theatre on November 15, 2015 in Hollywood, California.Rachel Murray / Getty Images for Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz

"The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation's highest civilian honor — it's a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better," Obama said in a statement.

The medal is given annually to people who have made outstanding contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

This year's roster also includes Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda for their philanthropic foundation, TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, veteran actress Cicely Tyson, artist and designer Maya Lin, Saturday Night Live creator and producer Lorne Michaels, architect Frank Gehry and baseball broadcaster Vin Scully.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 21: Ellen DeGeneres attends the 26th annual GLAAD Media Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 21, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)Jason LaVeris / FilmMagic

The group also includes several not so well known Americans, such as late Native American community leader Elouise Cobell, President of Miami Dade College Eduardo Padrón, math professor Grace Hopper, physicist Richard Garwin, former Federal Communications Committee chairman Newt Minow and NASA moon landing computer scientist Margaret H. Hamilton.

Obama leaves office in January after eight years, following the election of Republican businessman Donald Trump.

Previous recipients of the medal from Obama include baseball champion Yogi Berra, singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, director Steven Spielberg and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.