Tag Archives: Presidential Medal of Freedom

Actress: Lucille Ball

With Desilu, Lucy became the first female head of a production studio. Desilu produced The Untouchables, Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Andy Griffith Show, and I Spy. Not bad. Uploaded by artwallpapers.net.

I love Lucy. Everybody loves Lucy. With her husband Desi Arnaz, she virtually invented the situation comedy, a genre that has thrived on television for 60 years. But Lucy enjoyed a successful career both before and after her iconic show.

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Lucy began making movies in 1933, and appeared uncredited in more than two dozen films before finally getting a credit in Chatterbox (1935). Many would have (and probably did) give up Hollywood dreams after such a difficult stretch. But Lucy persevered, though never achieving true star status on the big screen. She had some success on radio, especially the show My Favorite Husband, in which she created the role of a wacky housewife. CBS asked her to develop it for television, and Lucy insisted on performing with her husband, Desi. CBS wasn’t sure, but eventually gave the go-ahead to I Love Lucy (Great American Things, May 12, 2009). I expect they were glad, don’t you?

As if appearing in one of America’s all-time favorite shows wasn’t enough, Lucy had other career distinctions. At Desilu, she became the first woman to head a production studio. She had two more successful sitcoms, The Lucy Show (1962-1968) and Here’s Lucy (1968-1974). And she appeared in several successful films, including Yours, Mine and Ours with Henry Fonda and Mame. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously from President George H.W. Bush.


Music: Yo-Yo Ma

He's recorded dozens of albums, performed with the world's leading orchestras, written and performed film scores, and won a zillion Grammys. And he plays the cello. THE CELLO. Uploaded by mlive.com.

He’s a virtuoso on the cello. The cello. As if the violin isn’t geeky enough. But the thing is, Yo-Yo Ma somehow makes it cool. He brings out the beauty in an instrument that had always been second fiddle. Second fiddle – somebody stop me!

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When his friends see him, do they say, “Yo, Yo!” And does he say, “Don’t use my middle name.” Okay, I think I’m finished being silly. Probably. Ma was born in Paris to Chinese parents who moved to New York and taught him German music. He was the epitome of the concept of child prodigy. As Mark Salzman wrote on the liner notes for Classic Yo-Yo: At four, he learned his first Bach cello suite; at five, he gave his first concert in Paris; at six, he dazzled Isaac Stern; and at seven, he played in a televised concert hosted by Leonard Bernstein and attended by President and Mrs. Kennedy.”

Yo-Yo Ma has performed all over the world with the leading orchestras and musicians. He’s recorded dozens of albums, and shown how the cello adapts to a wide array of musical forms. And he’s a virtual Grammy machine, having won 16, mostly for Best Chamber Music Performance and Best Instrumental Soloist Performance. And this year (2011), he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Yo!

Person: Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby has excelled in so many segments of the entertainment industry. Stand-up comedian, actor, author - and citizen. Uploaded by images.google.com.

Which Bill Cosby do you like best? Maybe the stand-up comedian, who broke ground with memories of his childhood – Rudy, Mushmouth, Russell and Fat Albert (“Hey, hey, hey!”). And who put the story of Noah into a perspective it hadn’t been told before (“Riiight…what’s a cubit?”).

Maybe you like Bill the serious actor, from his stint as the first African-American to co-star in a dramatic series (I Spy), movies (Let’s Do It Again, Uptown Saturday Night, Mother, Jugs and Speed),  situation comedies (The Bill Cosby Show and, of course, The Cosby ShowGreat American Things, June 20, 2009) .

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Or perhaps it’s Bill Cosby the outspoken citizen, who has urged the black community to pay less attention to sports and rap music, and more to raising strong families and focusing on education.

Cosby is beloved by Americans of all ages and races, as his honors reveal. Professionally, he’s won three Emmys and nine Grammys. He’s received honorary doctorates from major universities. And he’s been awarded both the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2002) and Kennedy Center Honors (1998).

All this, and we haven’t even talked about Jell-O…

Sports: Arthur Ashe


Arthur Ashe won the NCAA Singles Title, the U.S. Amateur Championship, the U.S. Open, the Australian Open, and Wimbledon. But we remember the man, not just the athlete. Uploaded by teamtalk.com.

Richmond, Virginia’s Arthur Ashe knew the highest highs and the lowest lows in his too-brief lifetime. He won three of Grand Slam events of tennis – the U.S. Open (1968), the Australian Open (1970), and Wimbledon (1975). And yet he had serious heart problems that required multiple surgeries, during one of which he contracted HIV from a blood transfusion. He died at age 49.

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Ashe showed talent early at a sport that was all but closed to African-Americans. He had to move to St. Louis to find a place where he could play tennis without bias, and went all the way across the continent to UCLA for college. In 1968 he became the only person to win both the U.S. Amateur Championship and the U.S. Open in the same year. But in 1979, Ashe suffered a heart attack and underwent a quadruple bypass. More heart problems required more surgery in 1983. A few years later he fell ill, and learned that he had HIV.

Ashe took an active role in the civil rights field, visiting South Africa and being arrested in the U.S. outside the South African embassy at an anti-apartheid rally. His leadership in all areas of his life didn’t go unappreciated. The main stadium at the home of the U.S. Open is now Arthur Ashe Stadium, ESPN gives a special ESPY award named the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, and President Clinton honored his memory with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Actor: Gregory Peck


Gregory Peck received four Best Actor nominations during his first five years in films. But it wasn't until almost twenty years later that he won -- for To Kill a Mockingbird. Uploaded by st3.kinpoisk.ru.

Sometimes one role can capsulize an actor’s career, regardless of how many excellent films he makes. For Gregory Peck, that part was Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (Great American Things, May 21, 2009). Here, Peck’s integrity was on full display, and he endowed Finch with a strength of character few other actors could have accomplished. The role earned Peck his Academy Award for Best Actor.

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Of course, he had a long and excellent film career which began in 1944 and concluded in 1993. Among his most memorable films:

The Keys of the Kingdom (1944 – Nomination) … Spellbound (1945)… The Yearling (1946 – Nomination) … Duel in the Sun (1946)… Gentleman’s Agreement (1947 – Nomination)… Twelve O’Clock High (1949 – Nomination)… The Gunfighter (1950)… The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952)… Roman Holiday (1953)… Moby Dick (1956)… The Guns of Navarone (1961)… Cape Fear (1962)… To Kill a Mockingbird (1962 – Academy Award)… MacArthur (1977)… and The Boys from Brazil (1978).

Among the many honors Peck earned were the Presidential Medal of Freedom (awarded by Lyndon Johnson), the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, the Motion Picture Academy’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, and the AFI Life Achievement Award.

Person: Paul Harvey

Paul Harvey received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. Uploaded by thedryspot.files.wordpress.com.

What was it about Paul Harvey that catapulted him to the top of his profession? Was it the interesting mix of stories he chose, alternating between the serious and the quirky? Or was it his distinctive style and dramatic delivery, evident from his opening: “Hello, America, this is Paul Harvey. Stand by for news!

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His broadcasts ranged from the intimate (“Harold and Joan Pershing in Sausalito, California are 75 years on their way to forever together”) to the whimsical (“You say a picture is worth a thousand words? Well, let’s see about that. You give me a thousand words, and I’ll give you the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd psalm, and the Hippocratic oath and a sonnet by Shakespeare and the preamble to the Constitution and Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, and I’ll still have just about enough words left for the Boy Scout oath.”).

Another of Paul Harvey’s signatures was his “The Rest of the Story” broadcast. He’d tell a remarkable story about someone famous, using a name we’re not as familiar with (for example “Tommy” might turn out to be Thomas Edison), and after revealing the identity of the subject, he’d conclude with, “And now you know…the…rest of the story.”

Paul called his wife “Angel”, both in person and on the air. The “rest of the story” about Angel was that she was very influential in her husband’s career. She produced his show, and indeed was the first producer inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame. “The Rest of the Story” feature was her idea, and she was always Paul’s inspiration.

Paul Harvey was consistently listed in the Gallup Poll’s list of Most Admired Men. In 2005, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.

Paul Harvey…Good day!

Sports: Muhammad Ali

In his first title fight, Ali upset the heavily favored Sonny Liston. Uploaded by img65.imageshack.us.

In his first title fight, Ali upset the heavily favored Sonny Liston. Uploaded by img65.imageshack.us.

He could “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” He invented the “rope-a-dope” strategy. He became one of the best-known Americans around the globe. He was Cassius Clay. He was the Louisville Lip. He is The Greatest.

As a boxer, he’s among the best who ever slipped on the gloves. He won the gold medal in the 1960 Olympics, held the Heavyweight Title three times, and finished with a record of 56-5.

Uploaded by femalefirst.co.uk.

Uploaded by femalefirst.co.uk.

And because he mattered, boxing mattered. Hard to imagine now, but when Ali fought Joe Frazier in “The Fight of the Century,” George Foreman in “The Rumble in the Jungle,” and Frazier again in “The Thrilla in Manila,” the whole country stopped to watch.

Ali was, of course, controversial as well. Many white Americans were perplexed when he embraced the Nation of Islam and changed his name from Cassius Clay. He declared himself a conscientious objector because of his faith, and was convicted of draft evasion and sentenced to five years in prison. His conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court, not on its merits but on procedural grounds.

But over time, public affection for Ali continued to grow. The BBC named him the “Sports Personality of the Century.” And he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 by President George W. Bush. He was a quote machine, and after reviewing them I believe this is my favorite: “If you even dream of beating me, you’d better wake up and apologize.”

Person: Helen Keller

Helen uses her hand to hear Enrico Caruso talk. Uploaded by henryrosner.org.

Helen uses her hand to hear Enrico Caruso talk. Uploaded by henryrosner.org.

I’m sure you know the story of Helen Keller’s childhood, captured without much embellishment in The Miracle Worker. The victim of a fever at age two that left her deaf and blind, Helen had the world opened to her through the tireless work of her teacher, Annie Sullivan.

Helen at age 8 with Annie Sullivan. Uploaded to Flickr by luke skytoker.

Helen at age 8 with Annie Sullivan. Uploaded to Flickr by luke skytoker.

But it’s not as if she went on to live a quiet and reserved life. Quite the opposite. She graduated from Radcliffe College, becoming the first deaf and blind person to earn a bachelor’s degree. She became an advocate for people with disabilities, speaking and raising money in 39 countries around the world. Her concern for the working classes led her to join Eugene Debs’ Socialist Party. She helped to found the American Civil Liberties Union. And she was a suffragette and a supporter of women’s rights.

Helen Keller received many well-deserved tributes to her contributions to American life. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Alabama honored her by placing her image on its state quarter. And she was named to the Time 100 Most Important People of the Twentieth Century as well as Gallup’s Most Admired People of the Twentieth Century.