Loretta Lynn, Oprah Winfrey and Bill Clinton were among those presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom during ceremonies Wednesday (Nov. 20) in Washington, D.C.
President Barack Obama honored 16 recipients, including Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks, women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem, former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee and the late astronaut Sally Ride. Lynn and Cuban-born jazz trumpeter, pianist and composer Arturo Sandoval were the only musical artists to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom this year.
The award is the nation’s highest civilian honor presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the U.S., to world peace or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
Lynn who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988. In presenting her latest accolade, Obama noted her humble beginnings.
“Loretta Lynn was 19 the first time she won big at the local fair,” he said. “Her canned vegetables brought home 17 blue ribbons and made her canner of the year. Now that’s impressive. For a girl from Butcher Holler, Ky., that was fame.
“Fortunately for all of us, she decided to try her hand at things other than canning. Her first guitar cost $17 and with it, this coal miner’s daughter gave voice to a generation, singing what no one wanted to talk about and saying what no one wanted to think about. Now, over 50 years after she cut her first record and canned her first vegetables, Loretta Lynn still reigns as the rule-breaking, record-setting queen of country music.”