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Obama to honor LGBT activist Bayard Rustin, astronaut Sally Ride

Thursday, August 8, 2013

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will posthumously honor LGBT and civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, and Dr. Sally Ride, the first known LGBT astronaut, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the White House announced Thursday.

Rustin and Ride will be among 16 people that Obama will venerate later this year with the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.

Astronaut Dr. Sally Ride (left) and civil rights activist Bayard Rustin.

In the five decades since President John F. Kennedy first created the modern version of the medal, more than 500 people have been recognized for contributions to society of all stripes.

“This year’s honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world,” Obama said in a statement.

Rustin (March 17, 1912 – August 24, 1987) was an American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, pacifism and non-violence, and gay rights. He was a leading activist of the early 1947–1955 civil-rights movement, helping to initiate a 1947 Freedom Ride to challenge with civil disobedience racial segregation on interstate busing.

Rustin was a gay man who had been arrested for a homosexual act in 1953 when homosexuality was still criminalized in parts of the United States. In the 1970s, he became a public advocate on behalf of gay and lesbian causes.

Ride (May 26, 1951 – July 23, 2012) who in 1983 became the first American woman in space, died of cancer at age 61. Her sexual orientation was not widely known until her death, at which time her obituary revealed she survived by her female partner of 27 years. She is believed to be the first known LGBT astronaut.

Also among this year’s honorees are former President Bill Clinton, who will be recognized for his humanitarian work through the Clinton Foundation, which promotes global public health, economic development and environmental protection, and entertainer Oprah Winfrey, whose philanthropic efforts have been focused largely on education and creating opportunities for women and girls in the U.S. and in Africa.

Others who will receive the medal:

  • Daniel Inouye, former senator from Hawaii, World War II veteran and the first Japanese American in Congress. Inouye will receive the award posthumously.
  • Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of the Washington Post who oversaw the newspaper’s coverage of Watergate.

  • Richard Lugar, former senator from Indiana who worked to reduce the global nuclear threat.

  • Gloria Steinem, writer and prominent women’s rights activist.

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    Ernie Banks, baseball player who hit more than 500 home runs and played 19 seasons with the Chicago Cubs.
  • Daniel Kahneman, psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in Economics.

  • Loretta Lynn, country music singer.

  • Mario Molina, chemist and environmental scientist who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry.

  • Arturo Sandoval, Grammy-winning jazz musician who was born in Cuba and defected to the U.S.

  • Dean Smith, head coach of University of North Carolina’s basketball team for 36 years.

  • Patricia Wald, first woman appointed to U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and became the court’s chief judge.

  • C.T. Vivian, civil rights leader and minister.

The president decides on the list of medal recipients after reviewing an advisory board’s recommendations of individuals who have contributed to America’s cultural, security and other public interests.

Associated Press contributed to this report.
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18 more reader comments:

  1. yeah? I´d like to know if Sally´s partner received her death benefits yet?

    Posted on Thursday, August 8, 2013 at 9:25pm
  2. Glad to see that, especially Bayard Rustin.

    Posted on Thursday, August 8, 2013 at 9:29pm
  3. He could honor us all and relieve himself of duty.

    Posted on Thursday, August 8, 2013 at 9:30pm
  4. Hey Obama, can you and hillbilly from from try off our side and stop taking credit? Fucker´s!

    Posted on Thursday, August 8, 2013 at 9:33pm
  5. I´ve never seen the point to this award. It´s completely pointless, and half of the recipients over the years received it for being nothing more than famous celebrities. What a joke…

    Posted on Thursday, August 8, 2013 at 9:35pm
  6. For those who actually did do something to be deserving of an award, any possible significance of it is diminished by the fact that it is so frivolously handed out to pretty much anyone.

    Posted on Thursday, August 8, 2013 at 9:37pm
  7. Wow, looks like the bitter, bitchy queens are out in force today! God forbid we express happiness for them, and their loved ones.

    Posted on Thursday, August 8, 2013 at 9:38pm
  8. tho you may be right on that grant,dont take his efforts in vain.Its a effort on his part,to show his support and they did have their own ways of earning that award,even if it was years ago.the point is that,no matter who you are,your hard work should always pay off.i think people need to look from that point of view

    Posted on Thursday, August 8, 2013 at 9:50pm
  9. Hopefully the death of DOMA means she has/will.

    Posted on Thursday, August 8, 2013 at 9:52pm
  10. Hateful people will say anything even when a gay persons life doesn´t affect them in anyway or form. Pathetic! It´s a wonderful thing to do Mr. President, not just for them but for the “straighties” too. What the heck! Eh!

    Posted on Thursday, August 8, 2013 at 9:57pm
  11. Awesome!

    Posted on Thursday, August 8, 2013 at 10:43pm
  12. Silly Ass Black Folks have yet to read of Bayard Rustin………Silly ass Bastards ……

    Posted on Thursday, August 8, 2013 at 10:43pm
  13. Go for it! March on Mr. President! making great strides for us ALL !

    Posted on Friday, August 9, 2013 at 1:24am
  14. Now if they would just give her wife her deserved benefits…..

    Posted on Friday, August 9, 2013 at 2:07am
  15. Christian Valentine, what I actually meant was that it´s kind of a shame to have such great people like Sally Ride receiving an award for a lifetime of amazing contributions, and yet Loretta Lynn gets the same award simply for being famous. I do think Loretta Lynn is a wonderful person and has contributed a lot to the arts in her own right, but the kinds of accomplishments of Sally Ride and some of the others are on a whole different level. It just seems frivoulous to give an award to someone for tremendous contributions in the fields of science, education, medicine, etc, and someone else gets the same award simply for being a good singer or actor.

    Posted on Friday, August 9, 2013 at 3:39am
  16. I understand what you mean and support your opinion 100% Grant,but as i said above,these two should be looked at in a different light,not only because of what they did do but the statement it makes to the LGBT community.this is a very good thing in many ways and maybe from this point on,they will start giving it to those *all* who deserve it

    Posted on Friday, August 9, 2013 at 4:06am
  17. Thats great and all. But what about all the benefits their families wered denied? For years! Another pat on the head from our wonderful people. Whatever.

    Posted on Friday, August 9, 2013 at 12:28pm
  18. FINALLY BAYARD RUSTIN GETS SOME LOVE!

    Posted on Friday, August 9, 2013 at 3:22pm