President Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 16 people Wednesday — a diverse group including the first female astronaut and the last Democrat in Oval Office before him.
"Today, we salute fierce competitors who became true champions." (Via CNN)
As the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom has been awarded to more than 500 people over the past 50 years. (Via Wikimedia Commons)
President Obama recognized the humanitarian work of his Democratic predecessor Bill Clinton.
"I am most grateful for his patience during the endless travels of my secretary of state." (Via Fox News)
And it was a bit awkward. This was their first public appearance together since Clinton made his criticisms of the Affordable Care Act known last week. (Via Ozy)
TV icon Oprah Winfrey was recognized as well — adding her to the short list of celebrities with a Medal of Freedom in their trophy collection.
"Early in her career, people told Oprah she should go by Susie. I have to pause here to say I got the same advice." (Via NBC)
Among the recipients included three Americans who died in the past year.
Daniel Inouye, the Democratic senator from Hawaii. (Via U.S. Senate)
Sally Ride, the first American woman to go to space. (Via NASA)
And Bayard Rustin, an openly gay African American civil rights leader. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Warren K. Leffler)
Other winners include country music star Loretta Lynn, feminist author Gloria Steinem and baseball legend Ernie Banks. (Via The White House)
President John F. Kennedy established the award 50 years ago. After the ceremony, Clinton and Obama traveled to Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the eternal flame that marks his grave.