President Barack Obama has named lesbian astronaut Sally Ride and gay civil rights icon Bayard Rustin as 2013 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the White House announced Thursday (August 8).
Ride, the first American female astronaut to travel to space, “advocated passionately for science education, stood up for racial and gender equality in the classroom, and taught students from every background that there are no limits to what they can accomplish,” White House officials said in a news release. She also advised several administrations on space exploration. She died in 2012.
Rustin advised civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He was “an unyielding activist for civil rights, dignity, and equality for all,” White House staff stated. He died in 1987.
“The Presidential Medal of Freedom goes to men and women who have dedicated their own lives to enriching ours,” Obama said of the country’s highest civilian honor. “This year’s honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world. It will be my honor to present them with a token of our nation’s gratitude.”
Other honorees this year include former President Bill Clinton, country singer Loretta Lynn, activist Gloria Steinem, and actress and talk show host Oprah Winfrey.
The awards will be presented at the White House later this year, which marks the 50th anniversary of the honor’s establishment.