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Obama honors Medal of Freedom recipients at White House

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May 29, 2012: President Barack Obama presents rock legend Bob Dylan with a Medal of Freedom during a ceremony at the White House in Washington. (AP)

President Obama on Tuesday honored a diverse group of political and cultural icons, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, astronaut John Glenn and rock legend Bob Dylan, with the Medal of Freedom at the White House.

The president noted that the awards ceremony led to a "packed house, which is testament to how cool this group is." Obama said the honorees have moved Americans with their words and inspired them with their actions. 

Other honorees included Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt, former Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens and author Toni Morrison.

The Medal of Freedom is the nation's highest civilian honor. It's presented to individuals who have made meritorious contributions to the national interests of the United States, to world peace or to other significant endeavors.

Other recipients this year include: 

-- Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts. 

-- Shimon Peres, former president of Israel. 

-- John Doar, who handled civil rights cases as assistant attorney general in the 1960s. 

-- William Foege, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who helped lead the effort to eradicate smallpox. 

-- Gordon Hirabayashi, who fought the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. 

-- Jan Karski, a resistance fighter against the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II. 

-- Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers of America. 

Albright was the first woman to hold the top U.S. diplomatic job, while Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth. Summitt led the University of Tennessee women's basketball team to more NCAA Final Four appearances than any other team. And Dylan's vast catalog of songs includes such rock classics as "Like a Rolling Stone," "Blowin' in the Wind" and "Mr. Tambourine Man."

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