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 Home > News & Policies > December 2006

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 15, 2006

Citations Recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

The President today awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The text of each recipient's citation reads as follows:

Ruth Johnson Colvin

Ruth Colvin is a literacy pioneer and one of our Nation's most effective ambassadors to the world on the importance of education. The founder of Literacy Volunteers of America, she has dedicated her life to helping the less fortunate gain the reading and language skills they need to succeed. Her work has inspired others to lead lives of service and devote their time and talents to combating illiteracy. The United States honors Ruth Johnson Colvin for her extraordinary efforts to provide hope and opportunity to people everywhere.

Norman C. Francis

During his nearly 40 years as President of Xavier University of Louisiana, Dr. Norman Francis has demonstrated a steadfast dedication to education, equality, and service to others. Throughout his career, he has led religious, educational, and civil rights organizations and has made significant contributions to the important work of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. As Chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, he has played a vital role in helping the people of the Gulf Coast rebuild their lives in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The United States honors Norman C. Francis for his leadership, compassion, and commitment to education.

Paul Johnson

A brilliant historian and journalist, Paul Johnson's powerful writings have captivated and educated people around the world. From histories of Judaism and Christianity, to the defining events, ideas, and personalities of the 20th Century, to the story of the American people, he has eloquently chronicled the forces that have shaped our world. A citizen of the United Kingdom, he holds America in special regard, calling the creation of our Nation "the greatest of all human adventures." The United States honors Paul Johnson for his landmark contributions to sharing the lessons of the past so that they may inform the present and shape the future.

Riley "B.B." King

One of the greatest blues singers and guitarists of all time, B.B. King is an American treasure. For more than half a century, the "King of the Blues" and his guitar "Lucille" have thrilled audiences, influenced generations of guitarists, and helped give the blues its special place in the American musical tradition. Raised in the Mississippi Delta, he began his career playing on street corners, and today has performed more than 10,000 shows, won 14 Grammys, and been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The United States honors B.B. King for his lifetime of achievement as one of America's greatest musicians.

Joshua Lederberg

Dr. Joshua Lederberg has devoted his life to the advancement of human knowledge across a remarkable range of scientific endeavor. His work in bacterial genetics earned him a Nobel Prize and laid the groundwork for future progress in the study of genetics. He has helped develop advanced computer technology, worked with NASA in the search for life on Mars, and served as a distinguished scientific advisor to our Nation's policymakers. The United States honors Joshua Lederberg for his achievements in scientific discovery and his commitment to improving the lives of others.

David McCullough

One of our Nation's most distinguished and honored historians, David McCullough has taken his own place in American history. His books have earned him the respect of general audiences and scholars alike and have received numerous awards, including two National Book Awards and two Pulitzer Prizes. The author of rigorous works on Harry Truman, John Adams, and the young Theodore Roosevelt, he is one of our foremost authorities on the American Presidency. The United States honors David McCullough for his lifelong efforts to document the people, places, and events that have shaped America.

Norman Y. Mineta

Norman Mineta exemplifies the high ideals of service, integrity, and courage. Despite the injustice of living in an internment camp when he was a child, he later served his country in the U.S. Army and went on to become a mayor, Congressman, and Cabinet Secretary under two Presidents. The longest-serving Secretary of Transportation, he worked to improve the security of our transportation system and restore our confidence in air travel after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The United States honors Norman Y. Mineta for a life of selfless and distinguished service to our Nation.

John "Buck" O'Neil

Buck O'Neil represented excellence and determination both on and off the baseball field. Rising above the injustice of a segregated country and sport, he served his Nation in World War II, was a talented player and manager in the Negro Leagues, and was Major League Baseball's first African-American coach. As a co-founder of and inspiration for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, he served as the Museum's Chairman of the Board and worked to ensure that generations of baseball legends would not be forgotten. The United States honors John "Buck" O'Neil for his generous spirit, devotion to baseball, and unyielding commitment to equality.

William Safire

As a journalist, speechwriter, columnist, author, and lexicographer, William Safire has distinguished himself as one of our country's most talented writers and commentators. Using the power of prose, he has educated our citizenry, polished our language, and vigorously defended human freedom. His work has earned him the recognition of his peers, including the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary, and has elevated debate on issues of the day. The United States honors William Safire for his uncompromising commitment to his craft and to strengthening our democracy.

Natan Sharansky

Natan Sharansky's life is the story of good conquering evil and an illustration of the strength of the human spirit. Imprisoned by the Soviet regime for his work to advance religious liberty and human rights, he spent 9 years in the gulag. Following his immigration to Israel, he served with distinction in that nation's government. He remains a powerful champion of the principles that all people deserve to live in freedom and that the advance of liberty is critical to peace and security around the world. The United States honors Natan Sharansky for his contributions to and sacrifices for the cause of democracy and freedom.

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