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Gerda Weissmann Klein recieves a 2010 medal of freedom President Barack Obama presents Jewish Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissmann Klein a 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom, Tuesday, February 15, 2011. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP Images)

Medal of Freedom Awarded

White House honors 15 outstanding people

By Nick Berray | null null , null
Scholastic News Kid Reporter Nick Berray at the White House Medal of Freedom ceremony with Atlanta, Georgia, Mayor Kasim Reed, who was an invited guest. (Photo courtesy Nick Berray)<br />
Scholastic News Kid Reporter Nick Berray at the White House Medal of Freedom ceremony with Atlanta, Georgia, Mayor Kasim Reed, who was an invited guest. (Photo courtesy Nick Berray)

Fifteen people received the Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in a special ceremony at the White House on Tuesday. Among those honored were Rep. John Lewis, an activitist in the Civil Rights Movement; Gerda Wiessmann Klein, a Holocaust survivor; and former President George H.W. Bush.

The Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor given. Recipients are chosen each year by the President of the United States. The award was first given by President Harry S Truman in 1945 to honor those who helped America during WWII. President John F. Kennedy began awarding the medals annually 18 years later.

President Obama's remarks at this year’s event were funny, touching, and informative. He eloquently summed up recipients, describing their amazing lives and experiences.

"When you look at the men and women here today, it shows you who we are," said Obama. "We aren’t a country just about the men and women we produce, but those men and women we also honor."

Among the guests invited to the ceremony in the East Room of the White House was Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta, Georgia. He commented on why he thought Obama chose this particular group of Americans, which included musicians, artists, writers, businessmen, activitsts, and athletes.

"They all have an inspiring story as American citizens," he said. "[They have] a stick-to-it-iveness that people can look up to."

After the ceremony, honored businessman Warren Buffet appeared before the press to answer a few questions. When asked by this eager reporter how it felt to win the Medal of Honor, Buffet joked that it felt really good, but....

"But what would really be great, at this point, is if I can someday win the medal for being the oldest living American!" he said with a laugh.

The 2010 winners, Obama said, "reveal the best of who we are, and who we inspire to be."

The recipients of the Medal of Freedom also included Hall of Fame baseball player Stan Musial, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, co-founder of NRDC (an environmental group) John H. Adams, artist Jasper Johns, humanitarian Dr. Tom Little, civil rights activist Sylvia Mendez, founder of VSA (Very Special Artists) Jean Kennedy Smith, musician Yo-Yo Ma, President Emeritus of the AFL-CIO John Sweeney, author Maya Angelou, and basketball player Bill Russell.

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