Obama Awards Medal of Freedom

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President Barack Obama celebrated 18 Americans “who devoted their lives to their fellow citizens” by presenting them with the nation’s highest civilian honor on Monday.

The recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom included longtime NBC journalist Tom Brokaw, actress Meryl Streep, musician Stevie Wonder, Ethel Kennedy, and retiring Democratic Rep. John Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress.

“Once a year we set aside this event to celebrate people who have made America stronger, and wiser, and more humane, and more beautiful,” Obama said during a ceremony at the White House..

Other recipients included James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner -- civil rights activists who were murdered in 1964 as they worked to register black voters in Mississippi. Also celebrated was Native American activist Suzan Harjo, and the late Rep. Edward Roybal, who founded the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in 1976.

“We thank all of them for the gifts they have given to us: The incredible performances, the incredible innovation, the incredible ideas, the incredible expressions of the human spirit," Obama said.

See the full list of recipients here.

-- Andrew Rafferty