President Obama has announced this year’s Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients. The nation’s highest civilian honor has gone in the past to folks like T.S. Eliot, Lucille Ball, Pope John XXIII, Margaret Mead, Jack Nicklaus, Mother Teresa, and Norman Podhoretz. As you may have guessed, Democrats and Republicans tend to reward their own, absent some moderating gestures (George Bush gave Medals to Henry Hyde and Donna Shalala). Obama’s 16 honorees, expectedly, include a lot of bleeding hearts, and also a few dead people.
The honorees are breast cancer advocate Nancy Goodman Brinker; poverty clinic doctor and Cuban expatriate Dr. Pedro Jose Greer; Stephen Hawking; the late Jack Kemp; Ted Kennedy; Billie Jean King; civil rights leader Rev. Joseph Lowery; Crow elder and historian Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow; the late Harvey Milk; former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor; Sidney Poitier; Chita Rivera; former president of the Republic of Ireland Mary Robinson; geneticist Janet Davison Rowley; Desmond Tutu, and micro-loan pioneer Muhammad Yunus.