Watch Bill & Melinda Gates receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian award of the United States of America; awarded by the President, it recognizes those who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

The award is not limited to U.S. citizens and can be awarded to military personnel – despite it being a civilian award.

President Obama awarded the Medal to 21 individuals who have “helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way.”

President Obama has given more Presidential Medals of Freedom than any president before him – this is, of course, the last time he will be able to do so.

Among the honorees were sports figures such as Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – who had to lean back, so President Obama could put the award around his neck – artists such as Tom Hanks and Maya Lin, and engineers such as Margaret H. Hamilton who lead the team that created the onboard flight software for NASA’s Apollo command and lunar modules.

Bill and Melinda Gates are also among the honorees, for the work they have done at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Founded in the year 2000, the charitable foundation has provided more than $36 billion in grants across the world since its inception, including within the United States.

The Honourees

The full list of individuals who have been honored with the award today is below; you can have a look at excerpts defining their contributions at

  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  • Elouise Cobell
  • Ellen DeGeneres
  • Robert De Niro
  • Richard Garwin
  • Bill Gates
  • Melinda Gates
  • Frank Gehry
  • Margret H. Hamilton
  • Tom Hanks
  • Grace Hopper
  • Michael Jordan
  • Maya Lin
  • Lorne Michaels
  • Newt Minow
  • Eduardo Padrón
  • Robert Redford
  • Diana Ross
  • Vin Scully
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Cicely Tyson


On a more light-hearted note, the recipients also participated in the #MannequinChallenge – which is great timing, considering Microsoft made one too just yesterday.

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