Before addressing the civil unrest gripping Ferguson, President Barack Obama addressed 18 notable civilians who were receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
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Obama said the ceremony is one of his favorite events because it celebrates “people who have made America stronger and wiser and more humane and more beautiful.”
He revealed the first record he ever bought was by honoree Stevie Wonder and confessed a crush on Meryl Streep, gushing about her ability to promote empathy on and off the screen through charitable works.
“Her husband knows I love her. Michelle knows I love her. There’s nothing either of them can do about it,” the president joked.
Others receiving the award included NBC journalist Tom Brokaw, author Isabel Allende, Native American activist Suzan Harjo, actress Marlo Thomas, economist Robert Solow, former Rep. Abner Mikva of Illinois, physicist Mildred Dresselhaus and golfer Charlie Sifford. Composer Stephen Sondheim was scheduled to receive the award, but Obama said he couldn’t make it and will be included in next year’s class of honorees.
The loudest applause came when Obama gave posthumous medals to family members of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who were slain in 1964 as they participated in a historic voter registration drive in Mississippi. Other posthumous awards were for choreographer Alvin Ailey and Reps. Patsy Mink of Hawaii and Edward Roybal of California, founder of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Check out the photos of the prestigious ceremony in the slideshow pages down below.
Photos: The White House, Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images