President Barack Obama is presenting the nation's highest civilian honor to 19 artists, activists, public servants and others.

The distinguished group receiving a Presidential Medal of Freedom includes actress Meryl Streep, Ethel Kennedy, widow of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy, singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder and Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat and the longest-serving member of Congress. Dingell is retiring at the end of the year.

Others being recognized at a White House ceremony Monday are composer Stephen Sondheim, NBC journalist Tom Brokaw and author Isabel Allende.

The list also includes Native American activist Suzan Harjo, actress Marlo Thomas, economist Robert Solow, golfer Charles Sifford, former Rep. Abner Mikva of Illinois and physicist Mildred Dresselhaus.

Posthumous medals will go to six individuals, among them civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who were slain in 1964 as they participated in a historic voter registration drive in Mississippi.

Other posthumous awards will go to choreographer Alvin Ailey and Reps. Patsy Mink of Hawaii and Edward Roybal of California, founder of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is reserved for individuals who have made "meritorious contributions" to U.S. security, world peace or cultural endeavors.