On Tuesday, President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the Nation’s highest civilian honor—to 13 individuals who have made meritorious 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 recipients include cultural icons like Bob Dylan and Toni Morrison, as well as Dolores Huerta, who cofounded the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez.
At the ceremony held Tuesday, the President said:
Together, the honorees on this stage, and the ones who couldn’t be here, have moved us with their words; they have inspired us with their actions. They’ve enriched our lives and they’ve changed our lives for the better. Some of them are household names; others have labored quietly out of the public eye. Most of them may never fully appreciate the difference they’ve made or the influence that they’ve had, but that’s where our job comes in. It’s our job to help let them know how extraordinary their impact has been on our lives. And so today we present this amazing group with one more accolade for a life well led, and that’s the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis also issued the following statement regarding the selection of Dolores Huerta for the Presidential Medal of Freedom:
“I don’t know if Dolores inspired me to become a public servant, but I do know that she inspired — and insisted — that I become the best public servant I could be. We got to know each other in the early 1990s, when I was in the California State Legislature. Wherever there was injustice… Dolores was there. I remember one of our first meetings as if it were yesterday: I was serving in the State Senate and working with a group of female farmworkers who were organizing a union. There were reports of violence during the campaign, and Dolores came to my office in Sacramento to see me.
Civil rights and women’s advocate Dolores Huerta is presented with a Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama talks with Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Toni Morrison in the Blue Room of the White House, May 29, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)