WASHINGTON (AP) — President George H.W. Bush, poet Maya Angelou and investor Warren Buffett are among the 2010 winners of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
President Barack Obama will present the awards to the 15 honorees early next year, the White House announced Wednesday.
Other winners include a civil rights hero, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., plus St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan "The Man" Musial, Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
Obama’s bipartisan gesture in picking the first President Bush for the honor is not unprecedented. Former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, awarded a Medal of Freedom to former Republican President Gerald Ford.
"These outstanding honorees come from a broad range of backgrounds and they’ve excelled in a broad range of fields, but all of them have lived extraordinary lives that have inspired us, enriched our culture, and made our country and our world a better place," Obama said. "I look forward to awarding them this honor."
The other winners are:
• Jasper Johns, an American artist whose work has dealt with themes of perception and identity. He is considered a major influence on pop, minimal and conceptual art.
• Gerda Weissmann Klein, a Jewish Holocaust survivor who founded Citizenship Counts, an organization that teaches students to cherish the value of their American citizenship.
• Dr. Tom Little, an optometrist murdered last August by the Taliban in Afghanistan as he and nine others returned from a mission to provide eye care in the Parun valley of Nuristan. The award is being given posthumously to Little.
• Sylvia Mendez, a civil rights activist of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent.
• Jean Kennedy Smith, a Kennedy family member who served as U.S. ambassador to Ireland and is the founder of VSA, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts that promotes the artistic talents of children and adults with disabilities.
• John Sweeney, AFL-CIO president from 1995-2009.
• John H. Adams, who in 1970 co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council, a prominent environmental advocacy group.