Ailey receives Presidential Medal of Freedom

Alvin Ailey. Photo by Jack Mitchell.The White House recently announced that President Obama has selected Alvin Ailey to be a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom this year. This honor – the nation’s highest civilian honor – is being given posthumously to acknowledge Ailey’s contributions and commitment to Civil Rights and dance in America. His pioneering legacy lives on through Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) with performances, training, educational and community programs for people of all backgrounds.


In addition to Ailey, the following individuals will receive medals: songwriter Stevie Wonder, author Isabel Allende, journalist Tom Brokaw, prominent physicist and electrical engineer Mildred Dresselhaus, actress Meryl Streep, lifelong public servant John Dingell, social justice activist Ethel Kennedy, American Indian legislative campaigner Suzan Harjo, former Congressman Abner Mikva, revolutionary Congresswoman Patsy Takemoto Mink, political frontrunner Edward Roybal, historic golfer Charles Sifford, economist Robert Solow, producer and entertainer Marlo Thomas, and civil rights activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner.


Plus, Stephen Sondheim will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom this year. He is one of the country’s most influential theater composers and lyricists. His work has helped define American theater with shows such as Company, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods. Sondheim has won eight Grammy Awards, eight Tony Awards, an Academy Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.


According to a statement from the White House, the Presidential Medal of Freedom is “presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”


President Obama said, “I look forward to presenting these 19 bold, inspiring Americans with our nation’s highest civilian honor. From activists who fought for change to artists who explored the furthest reaches of our imagination; from scientists who kept America on the cutting edge to public servants who help write new chapters in our American story, these citizens have made extraordinary contributions to our country and the world.”


The 19 recipients, or representatives standing in for them, will be presented their medals at the White House on Monday, November 24. AAADT Artistic Director Robert Battle will accept the Medal on behalf of Ailey at the ceremony.


Photo: Alvin Ailey. Photo by Jack Mitchell.

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