By LAURA MECKLER
WASHINGTON—A poet and a painter, a baseball legend and a basketball giant, a German chancellor and an American president all found themselves named as recipients of the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
The medal is given from time to time by the president. Officially, it recognizes “especially meritorious contributions” across a wide range of endeavors: U.S. security or national interests, world peace and cultural pursuits among them.
Unofficially, the list is a statement by the president about what Americans value. The answer, it seems, includes both great batting skills and fighting for civil rights. Stan Musial, who registered 3,630 career hits, is on the list, as is Sylvia Mendez, who fought to integrate schools.
“All of them have lived extraordinary lives that have inspired us, enriched our culture and made our country and our world a better place,” President Barack Obama said in a statement Thursday. The honors are typically bestowed about once a year and will be given early next year at the White House. Last year he honored 16 people; on Thursday, he picked an additional 15.