Obama honors 'agents of change'

—With unflagging devotion to justice, indomitable optimism, and an unmistakable sense of humor, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu has stirred the world's conscience for decades. As a man of the cloth, he has drawn the respect and admiration of a diverse congregation. He helped lead South Africa through a turning point in modern history, and with an unshakable humility and firm commitment to our common humanity, he helped heal wounds and lay the foundation for a new nation. Desmond Tutu continues to give voice to the voiceless and bring hope to those who thirst for freedom.

—With his belief in the self-reliance of all people, Professor Muhammad Yunus has altered the face of finance and entrepreneurship. As an academic, he struggled with pervading economic theories and their effects on the people of his native Bangladesh. Yearning for a new way of lifting people out of poverty, he revolutionized banking to allow low-income borrowers access to credit. In the process, he has enabled citizens of the world's poorest countries to create profitable businesses, support their families and help build sustainable communities. In so doing, Muhammad Yunus has unleashed new avenues of creativity and inspired millions worldwide to imagine their own potential.

Contributing: David Jackson in Washington; Steve Marshall in McLean, Va., and the Associated Press

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