Irene Hirano Inouye receives her late husband's Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama. Pictured behind them are former President Bill Clinton, former Sen. Richard Lugar, and country music legend Loretta Lynn. (
Irene Hirano Inouye receives her late husband’s Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama. Pictured behind them are former President Bill Clinton, former Sen. Richard Lugar, and country music legend Loretta Lynn. (

WASHINGTON — President Obama posthumously honored Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a White House ceremony on Nov. 20.

The medal, established by President John F. Kennedy 50 years ago, is the nation’s highest civilian honor, has been given to more than 500 individuals for especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

“These are the men and women who in their extraordinary lives remind us all of the beauty of the human spirit, the values that define us as Americans, the potential that lives inside of all of us,” Obama said of this year’s 16 recipients.

“A true patriot and dedicated public servant, Daniel K. Inouye understood the power of leaders, when united in common purpose, to protect and promote the tenets we cherish as Americans,” the White House announcer said during the ceremony.

“As a member of the revered 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Daniel Inouye helped free Europe from the grasp of tyranny during World War II, for which he received the Medal of Honor. Representing the people of Hawaii from the moment the islands joined the Union, he never lost sight of the ideals that bind us across the 50 states.

“Sen. Inouye’s reason and resolve helped make our country what it is today, and for that we honor him.”

Accepting on behalf of the senator, who passed away last December at the age of 88, was his wife, Irene Hirano Inouye.

The other 2013 recipients were:

• Ernie Banks, one of the greatest baseball players of all time, who played in 11 All-Star Games during his 19 seasons with the Chicago Cubs.

• Ben Bradlee, one of the most respected newsmen of his generation who oversaw coverage of the Watergate scandal during his tenure as executive editor of The Washington Post.

• Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States, who after leaving office established the Clinton Foundation to improve global health, strengthen economies, promote health and wellness, and protect the environment.

• Daniel Kahneman, a pioneering scholar who applied cognitive psychology to economic analysis, laying the foundation for a new field of research and earning the Nobel Prize in Economics.

• Richard Lugar, who represented Indiana in the U.S. Senate for more than 30 years and is known for his bipartisan leadership and decades-long commitment to reducing the threat of nuclear weapons.

• Loretta Lynn, who emerged as one of the first successful female country music vocalists in the early 1960s and courageously broke barriers in an industry long dominated by men.

• Mario Molina is a visionary chemist and environmental scientist who earned the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering how chlorofluorocarbons deplete the ozone layer.

• Sally Ride (posthumous), the first American female astronaut to travel to space and a role model who stood up for racial and gender equality in the classroom.

• Bayard Rustin (posthumous), an advisor to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who participated in one of the first Freedom Rides and organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

• Arturo Sandoval, a celebrated jazz trumpeter, pianist, and composer who defected to the U.S. from Cuba and went on to win nine Grammy Awards.

• Dean Smith, who became the winningest men’s college basketball coach in history during his tenure with the University of North Carolina from 1961 to 1997.

• Gloria Steinem, a renowned writer and activist who was a leader in the women’s liberation movement and co-founded Ms. magazine.

• Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian, a distinguished minister, author, and leader in the Civil Rights Movement who participated in Freedom Rides and sit-ins across our country.

• Patricia Wald, the first woman appointed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and later served a member the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague.

• Oprah Winfrey, who is best known for creating “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and has long been active in philanthropic causes and expanding opportunities for young women.

Previous honorees include Fred Korematsu, who received his medal from Clinton in 1998, and Gordon Hirabayashi, who was posthumously recognized by Obama last year, both for challenging the government’s violation of Japanese Americans’ constitutional rights during World War II.

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