President George H.W. Bush, poet Maya Angelou and investor Warren Buffett are among the 2010 winners of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.
President Obama will present the awards to the 15 honorees early next year, the White House announced Wednesday.
Other winners include a civil rights hero, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., plus St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Stan "The Man" Musial, Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
Obama's bipartisan gesture in picking the first President Bush for the honor is not unprecedented. Former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, awarded a Medal of Freedom to former Republican President Gerald Ford.
"These outstanding honorees come from a broad range of backgrounds and they've excelled in a broad range of fields, but all of them have lived extraordinary lives that have inspired us, enriched our culture, and made our country and our world a better place," Obama said. "I look forward to awarding them this honor."
The medal is presented to people who have made notable contributions to U.S. interests, from cultural achievements to security matters.
The full list of winners:
--George H.W. Bush was America's 41st president, and previously vice president and CIA director. He also worked with Clinton to raise money for victims Hurr to Ireland and is the founder of VSA, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts that promotes the artistic talents of children and adults with disabilities.
--John Sweeney, AFL-CIO president from 1995-2009.
--John H. Adams, who in 1970 co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council, a prominent environmental advocacy group.