The Presidential Medals of Freedom were awarded Monday afternoon in a moving ceremony.
Nineteen — six posthumously — activists, artists, scientists, and public servants were recognized for their contributions to further U.S. security, world peace or cultural endeavors.
Their work “moved us to higher ground,” said President Barack Obama. “Not only did they make the world better, but each of us by following their example.”
Among the recipients were Isabelle Allende, author, who was exiled from Chile and writes about not only war and violence, but also peace and redemption; Tom Brokaw, veteran news reporter and author, who helped us better understand the world and each other, and actresses Meryl Streep and Marlo Thomas who used their fame as springboards to further women’s rights and early childhood education.
Be it marching in a Civil Rights protest, discovering a new vaccine or reporting from a war zone, these men and women were trailblazers “who bent the arc of our nation to justice,” Obama said.
MONDAY’S ceremony came on the heels of the resurgent news that Bill Cosby allegedly drugged and raped a number of women over the course of his career as a black entertainer.
In his heyday during the 1980s, Cosby also was hailed as a trailblazer for raising the image of the African American male from that of a caricature to a professional and father with high morals in his long-standing series “The Cosby Show.”
Despite the allegations filed by five women, Cosby has never been criminally charged.
In Monday’s New York Times the columnist David Carr admitted he had skirted the issue when interviewing Cosby several years back, though it weighed heavily on his mind.
Carr said he did so in order to preserve “The Natural Order of Things.” In other words, don’t rock the boat of a superstar.
Other journalists have since pleaded guilty to giving Cosby carte blanche, including those with The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and the author Mark Whitaker in his 500-page epic biography of Cosby.
Carr said his omission is a huge disservice to the women who were brave enough to speak out against the heavyweight entertainer.
“THERE ARE two kinds of people,” Obama said in Monday’s ceremony, quoting Danny Thomas, father of Marlo, and founder of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital network. “Givers and takers. The takers may sometimes eat better; but the givers always sleep better.”
So easy, and yet seemingly out of reach for some.
— Susan Lynn