WASHINGTON — President Bush on Monday presented the Presidential Medal
of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, to recognize
contributions in science, the arts, literature and the cause of peace
“Each of them, by effort and by
character, has earned the respect of the American people, and holds a
unique place in the story of our time,” Bush said at an East Room
The honorees were:
• Gary Becker. The economist and 1992 Nobel Prize winner was honored
for broadening the understanding of economics and social science, and
for helping to improve the standard of living around the world.
• Oscar Elias Biscet. A human rights advocate and champion of freedoms
in Cuba, Biscet is a political prisoner in Cuba who is being recognized
for his fight against tyranny and oppression.
• Francis Collins. The director of the National Human Genome Research
Institute was honored for his leadership of the Human Genome Project
and for greatly expanding the understanding of human DNA.
• Benjamin Hooks. The NAACP’s former executive director is considered a pioneer of the civil rights movement.
• Henry Hyde. The Illinois Republican served for 32 years in the House,
where he was known for his battles against abortion rights and his
leading role in the impeachment of President Clinton. He was honored as
a “powerful defender of life” and an advocate for strong national
defense, the White House says.
• Brian Lamb. The president and CEO of C-SPAN was recognized for
elevating the public debate and making the government more accessible.
• Harper Lee. The author of the beloved novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”
was honored for her contribution to American literature.
• Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The president of Liberia and the first woman
elected president of an African nation, she is credited with working to
expand freedom and healing a country torn apart by conflict.
The Medal of Freedom was established by President Harry Truman in 1945
to recognize civilians for their efforts during World War II, and was
reinstated by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 to honor distinguished
service. It is given to those deemed to have made remarkable
contributions to the security or national interests of the United
States, world peace, culture, or other private or public endeavors.