President Obama today named 16 recipients of the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom.   America's highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom is awarded to individuals who make an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

This year's awardees were chosen for their work as agents of change.  Among their many accomplishments in fields ranging from sports and art to science and medicine to politics and public policy, these men and women have changed the world for the better.  They have blazed trails and broken down barriers.  They have discovered new theories, launched new initiatives, and opened minds to new possibilities.

President Obama will present the awards at a ceremony on Wednesday, August 12.

The following individuals will be among those awarded the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom:
Stephen Hawking
Jack Kemp
Sen. Edward Kennedy
Billie Jean King
Harvey Milk
Sandra Day O'Connor
Sidney Poitier
Chita Rivera
Desmond Tutu