WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 (UPI) — World renowned film director Steven Spielberg, singer James Taylor and Major League Baseball greats Yogi Berra and Willie Mays are among 17 people who will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the White House announced Monday.
The medal is the United States’ highest civilian honor that’s given to citizens who have made grand contributions to society or toward the national interest. Monday, President Barack Obama said this year’s recipients have helped better the lives of millions of Americans.
“From public servants who helped us meet defining challenges of our time to artists who expanded our imaginations, from leaders who have made our union more perfect to athletes who have inspired millions of fans, these men and women have enriched our lives and helped define our shared experience as Americans,” he said.
In addition to Spielberg, Mays, Berra and Taylor, the Medal of Freedom will be awarded to public servant Bonnie Carroll, former congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, musicians Emilio and Gloria Estefan, activist Billy Frank, Jr., former congressman Lee Hamilton, NASA scientist Katherine Johnson, senator Barbara, musician Itzhak Perlman, former deputy attorney general William Ruckelshaus, composer Stephen Sondheim, actress Barbra Streisand, and human rights activist Minoru Yasui.
The medals for Berra, Chisholm, Frank and Yasui will be given posthumously. The ceremony for the medal recipients will be held at the White House Nov. 24.
“Berra put his professional career on hold to join the Navy during World War II, where he fought with Allied forces on D-Day and eventually earned a Purple Heart,” the White House wrote of Berra, while also noting that Mays served in the U.S. Army.
The White House called Spielberg one of “the most influential filmmakers in cinematic history.”