Sixteen new recipients have received the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom this year, awarded at the White House on the evening of November 20. Included in the honorees are Sally Ride and Bayard Rustin.
This year marks the fifth decade since the highest civilian honor of the White House was established by John F. Kennedy’s executive order in 1963.
Ride and Rustin, both members of the LGBT community, were honored posthumously for making “especially meritous contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, or world peace, or cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
Past recipients of the cherished award have included: former president Bill Clinton, media mogul Oprah Winfrey, and feminist icon Gloria Steinem.
Sally Ride—the first American woman to travel to space—was an astronaut and astrophysicist, awarded for her contributions to NASA and for encouraging countless people to engage in sciences. After twenty-seven years of partnership with Tam O’ Shaugnessy, Ride passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2012.
Bayard Rustin—a key advisor to the late, great Martin Luther King Jr.—was a chief organizer for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. Rustin passed away in 1987 from a ruptured appendix; his legacy, however, continues to live through his partner Walter Naegal.