Thursday, August 13, 2009

Obama honors activists, actors, athletes and others.

When I think of the Presidential Medal of Freedom I think only of George Bush putting that medal around the necks of George Tenet and Tony Blair. Unlike any other president I can think of, Bush appeared to think that this honour was to be given for service to himself rather than to any higher purpose.

The difference in Obama's choices for this award are clear for all to see.

Obama said that he was awarding 16 "agents of change" and the list certainly reflected people who had brought about change.

"What unites them is a belief ... that our lives are what we make of them, that no barriers of race, gender or physical infirmity can restrain the human spirit, and that the truest test of a person's life is what we do for one another," Obama said at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, overflowing with guests as well as White House aides who came to glimpse the celebrities in their midst.

"The recipients of the Medal of Freedom did not set out to win this or any other award. They did not set out in pursuit of glory or fame or riches," the president continued. "Rather they set out, guided by passion, committed to hard work, aided by persistence, often with few advantages but the gifts, grace and good name God gave them."

Amongst Obama's recipients were the film star Sidney Poitier, civil rights icon the Rev. Joseph Lowery, tennis legend Billie Jean King, gay rights activist Harvey Milk, the physicist Stephen Hawking, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.

There is no way that anyone could say that any of these recipients were unworthy of the award. Nor could anyone say that any one of these recipients was being given this award for services rendered to Obama.

They are simply people who have done extraordinary work in their particular field.

Who a president chooses to honour says a lot about the president himself. Obama, unlike Bush, appears to be awarding genuine excellence. People who have made a difference to the lives of others.

It's impossible to watch this ceremony and not to feel moved.


Rachel Maddow covers this event here. It's also worth watching because she takes apart another right wing anti-NHS claim in which it is said that, if Stephen Hawking relied on the NHS, he would never have received the treatment which he needed.

It's another prime example of the fact free shit that the Astroturfers are peddling.

Stephen Hawking IS BRITISH! Were it not for the NHS he wouldn't be alive. And even Hawking has gone on the record to call out this latest ludicrous claim for these nutcases.

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