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Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

Ernie Banks, Gloria Steinem and Loretta Lynn are also among those honored by President Obama.
45:52 | 11/20/13

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Transcript for Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom
This is a special group. Hello everyone anti Hernandez the New York with his ABC news digital special report just moments from now the nation's. Highest civilian honor will be bestowed upon -- -- people. President Obama will award the medal of freedom to those who have made significant contributions have no interest. Further world -- or impact the nation's cultural endeavors here's the -- On behalf. Of Michelle and myself welcome to the White House. This is one of my favorite events every year. Especially. Special -- -- as -- look at this extraordinary. Group of individuals. And our opportunity to honor them we. Our nation's highest civilian honor the presidential medal of freedom. And this here it's just a little more special. Because this marks the fiftieth anniversary. President Kennedy establishing this -- Were honored by the way. Today. To have with us one of my favorite people. Apple candidate. And -- pretty good basketball player president. Kennedy's grandson Jack. Those metal has been bestowed on more than 500. Deserving people. Tonight I'm looking forward to joining some of these honorees as well as members of the Kennedy family. As we pay tribute to these fifty years excellence. In this morning were honored to -- sixteen new names to this. Distinguished list. Today. We salute fierce competitors who became true champions. In the sweltering heat of a Chicago summer. Ernie Banks walked -- -- -- locker room and -- like what he saw every person around. Heads down -- -- you were called. Sort of piped up and said more what a great -- let's play -- -- -- -- The man who came up through the negro leagues making seven dollars a day. And became the first black player to suit up for the cubs of one of the greatest hitters. Of all time. And in the process -- became known as much. For his 512 home runs as for his sheer. And his optimism and is eternal faith that someday the cubs would go all the way. And that's that's serious belief. That is some primitive and the White Sox fan like me can respect. But he is just a wonderful man and and great -- My hometown. Speaking of sports -- Smith as one of the winningest coaches. In college basketball history. But his successes go far beyond -- notes even as he won. Certainly percent of his games he graduated 96%. Of his players. First approach to use multiple defense -- in the game he was the pioneer. Who popularized the idea of pointing to the -- after basket player should point to the teammate who passed them the ball. And with his first national. Title on the line he did have the good sense to give the ball to -- nineteen year old kid named Michael -- -- they used to joke that the only person whoever held Michael under twenties was Dean Smith. Ball coach Smith couldn't join us today to an due to an illness that he's facing would extraordinary courage. We also honor his courage in helping to change our country. He recruit first black scholarship athlete to North Carolina. And helped and a great restaurant and -- neighborhood in Chapel Hill. That's the kind of character that he represented. On and off the court. We salute innovators who pushed the limits of science. Changing how we see the world and ourselves. And growing up Sally ride read about the space program in the newspaper almost every -- and she thought this was the coolest thing -- When -- Ph.D. candidate at Stanford she saw an ad for astronauts in the student newspaper and she sees the opportunity. As the first American woman in space Sally didn't just break -- stratosphere glass ceiling she blasted through and when she came back to earth she devoted her life to helping girls -- feels like math. Science and engineering. Young girls need to see role model she said. You can't be what you can't see. Today our daughters including Malia and Sasha can set their sights a little bit higher because Sally ride shall from the way. All of us have moments when we look back and wonder. What the heck was I think. I have that. Quite a -- Psychologists today they'll -- and. Has -- that simple question whose life's work. In -- storied career in Israel and America he basically invented. The study of human decision making he's helped us to understand everything from behavioral economics to. Does living in California make people happy. -- there's a question. He's also been called expert on irrational behavior. So unsure pretty good shed some light on Washington. But what truly says Daniel partisans curiosity. Guided by his belief that people are endlessly complicated and interest. At 79 he still discovering new insights in -- how we think and learn. Not -- so we understand each other but so we can work and live together more effectively. Doctor Mario Molina its love of science started as a young boy in Mexico City in a homemade laboratory in a bathroom at home. And that passion for discovery led Mario to become one of the most respected chemists of his -- He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize -- the Nobel Prize rather not only forest path breaking -- search. -- but also for his insistence that when we ignored dangerous carbon emissions we risked destroying. The ozone layer and endangering our planet. And thanks to -- work the world came together to address a common threat and today inspired by his example were working. To leave our planet safer and cleaner future generations. We also have to salute musicians who brings such -- -- our alliance. Loretta Lynn. Was nineteen the first time she won the -- She won big at the local fair. Her canned vegetables brought home seventeen blue ribbons. And made her -- of the year. -- -- -- -- For girl from butcher Holler Kentucky that was -- Force like for all of us she decided to Trier and that things other than -- Her first guitar cost seventeen dollars. And with it this coal miner's daughter gave voice to a generation. Singing what -- want to talk about say when no one want to think about. And now over fifty years after she cut her first record in -- first vegetables. Loretta Lynn still reigns as the rule breaking record setting queen of country music. As a young man in Cuba. After a rope -- -- Loved jazz so much it landed him in jail. It was the Cold War and the only radio station where he could hear jazz was the Voice of America which was dangerous to listen to. But out Arturo listened anyway. Later he defected to the United States knowing he might never see his parents -- beloved homeland again. Without freedom he said there is no life and today our tourism an American citizen and one of the most celebrated trumpet players in the world. There isn't any place on earth where the people don't know about -- have success and that's true in part because. Musicians like him have sacrificed so much to play -- We salute pioneers who pushed our nation towards greater justice and at -- -- Baptist minister. CT Vivian was one Dr. Martin Luther King junior's closest advisors. -- taught us who says that. It's in the action that we find out who we really are. And time and again reverend Vivian was among the first to be in the action. In 1947 joining -- to integrate and Omar restaurant. One of the first freedom rights. Itself on the course -- steps to register blacks to vote for which she was beaten bloodied. And -- Rosa Parks said of him. Even after things had supposedly been taken care of and we had our rights he was still out there. Inspiring the next generation. Including me. Helping kids go to college with a program that would become upward bound. And at 89 years old. For Vivian is still out there still -- -- action pushing us closer to our founding ideals. -- early in the morning. The day of the march on Washington. The National Mall was far from fallen some in the press will begin to wonder -- the event would be a failure. Of the marches chief organizer. -- -- -- -- -- As the story goes -- you -- about -- -- looked back up and reassured reporters that everything was right on schedule. North -- those -- demo was that the paper he was holding was blank. You don't know how is gonna work out but fire. Had an unshakable optimism nerves of steel. And most importantly of faith that if the causes Justin people -- organized. Nothing can stand and -- For decades this great leader often at doctor -- Was denied his rightful place in history because he was openly gay. No metal can change that but today we honor. -- restaurants memory by taking our place in his march towards true equality no matter who we are we grew up. Speaking of name changes. Disrupt -- There's a young girl named Gloria Steinem. Who arrived in New York to make her mark as a journalist. And magazines only wanted to write articles like. How to cook without really -- and -- Gloria notice things like that. You've been called -- champion notice or. She'll let you alert all the way as large and small but women. Had been and in some cases continue to be treated unfairly. Just because. -- women. As a writer a speaker. And activists. She awakened a vast and often skeptical public to problems like domestic violence. A lack of affordable child care unfair hiring practices. Because -- work across America around the world. More women are afforded the respect -- -- that they deserve. But -- also changed how women thought about themselves. And glory continues to pour heartened that teaching and mentoring. -- one piece of advice to young girls there's. A lot of us do not listen to -- -- -- -- -- the voice inside you and follow that. When Patricia Waltz lawful. And asked if she'd come back after every first her first child she searches like some time off focus on her family. Devoted almost ten years to raising five children. But -- never lost is to practice law so while her husband watched the kids at home -- -- the library on weekends. At the age of forty she went back to the courtroom to show the young kids -- thing -- -- As the first female judge on the DC circuit. Patricia was a top candidate for attorney general after leaving the bench -- idea of retirement was to go to The -- To preside over the trials of war criminals. Patricia says she hopes enough forum will become judges. That is not we're celebrating anymore but today we celebrate her and along with the Gloria -- shows there were all kinds of -- listening to your own Boortz. We salute communicators. Who shined a light on stories no one else was tell. A veteran of world war two and more than a dozen Pacific battles. Ben -- -- brought the same intensity and dedication to journalists. Since joining the washed important post 65 years ago he transformed that newspaper and -- One of the finest in the world -- been in charge the post published the Pentagon papers revealing the true history of America's involvement in Vietnam. Expose Watergate. Unleashed a new era of investigative journalist. Holding America's leaders accountable and reminding us that. Our freedom as a nation rests on our freedom of the press. When -- -- of them. Daniel Patrick -- put the admiration of many in to a -- -- rare Ben -- As rain has ceased. But his nation stands its strength increased. And I also indicated to -- He can pull off brochures and I can't. He always looks so Colin. Early on Oprah Winfrey's career. Her bosses told her she should change her name. To -- I have to pause here to say I got the same advice. All they -- -- -- should be named -- about the because I've changed my name. People can relate to Susie and that's what they sent. It turned out surprisingly that. People relate to Oprah just fine. In more than that 4500 episodes of -- -- Her message. Was always. You can't. You can do. And you can be you can grow and it can be -- -- -- -- -- -- Rising from childhood poverty and abuse the pinnacle of the entertainment universe. But even with forty -- us the distinction of being the first black female billionaire. Opera's greatest strength has always been her ability to help us discover the best in ourselves. Michelle and -- count ourselves among her many devoted fans and France. As well those fans wrote I didn't know I -- a light in me until Oprah told me it was it. What a great gift. And finally we salute public servants -- strengthen our nation. Daniel -- it was a humble man and and where his medal -- -- very often. Instead he liked to Wear -- -- representing the good conduct medal he earned as a teenage private. To behave yourself take special effort he said and I did not wanna. Dishonor my family. Benny always honored his family and his country even when his country -- always honor him. After being classified as an enemy alien. -- joined. The Japanese American unit became one of the most decorated. In world war two and has the second longest serving senator in American history. He showed a generation of young people. Including. One kid with a funny name grown up in Hawaii and noticed that there was somebody. During. Some of those hearings in Washington. Been look like your -- else which meant maybe I had a chance to do something important to. He taught all of us that no matter what you look like where you come from. This country has placed her body won't serve war. A proud -- Dick Lugar has served America for more than half a century from -- young navy lieutenant who were respected leader in the United States senate. I'll always be thankful the deck for taking me a new junior senator. Under -- -- Including travels together -- reviews on his visionary work the destruction of Cold War arsenal's in the former Soviet did something that. Doesn't get a lot of public notice but it was absolutely critical to making us safer. In the wake of the Cold War. I should say traveling -- -- you get close to unexploded landmines. Mortar shells. Test tubes filled with anthrax and the played. -- -- history though. Is. The thousands of missiles. And bombers and submarines -- warheads. To no longer threatens because of his extraordinary work in our nation our world. Are safer because the states. And in a time of unrelenting partisanship -- -- decency. This commitment to bipartisan problem solving stand as a model what public service ought to be. -- last. But never least. We -- a leader who we still remember. With such extraordinary -- He still remembers. As a child waving goodbye to his mom tears in -- -- -- she went up to a nursing school so. She could provide for perfect. And I think lifting up families like his own became the story -- -- like. He remembered. What his mom had to do. On behalf of him and you want to make sure that. He made life better and -- Over so many people all across the country. We're struggling -- those same ways and have those same hopes and dreams. So as governor he transformed education some more kids could pursue those dreams. As president he proved -- with the right choices you could grow the economy lift people out of Harvard. We could shrink our deficits and still invest in our families and help our schools science technology. In or other words we can go farther -- look out for each. And as we've all seen as president he was just getting started. He doesn't stop. He's helped lead relief efforts after the -- -- not. Hurricane Katrina. The Haiti earthquake. His foundation and global initiative of help to save or improve the lives of literally hundreds of millions of people. And of course I am most grateful. For his patience. During the -- travels of my secretary of state. So I'm grateful bills well for the advice and counsel -- -- offered me on and off the golf course. And and most importantly for. Your life saving work -- which represents what's the very best in America so thank you so much. President -- The Zuma said. Glimpse of the 2013 presidential medal of freedom. News of the men and women who in their extraordinary lives remind us all of the beauty of the human spirit. The values that define us as Americans. The potential that lives. Inside walls. I could not be. More happy and more on up. To participate. In this ceremony here today. Would bat what I would like to do. Is. Invite. Our -- armories. Two. Just sit there and let all of us stand and give you a big round of applause. I guess we should actually give them medals -- -- Where are my -- -- don't believe you wanna hit. Presidential medal of freedom recipients. Ernie Banks. And unmatched enthusiasm for America's pastime. Ernie Banks slowed sprinted and smiled his way into the record books. Known to fans as mr. -- He played an extraordinary in nineteen seasons with the Chicago Cubs. During which he was named to eleven all star teams hit over 500 home runs and won back to back most valuable player honors. Ernie Banks was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977. And he will forever be known as one of the finest power hitters and most dynamic players of all time. Benjamin crown and shield Bradley. Okay. A titan of journalism Benjamin crowning jewel Bradley is one of the most respected -- of his generation. After serving our nation and World War II Ben Bradley went on to defend liberty here at home. Testing the limits of a free press during his tenure as executive editor of the Washington Post. He oversaw coverage of the Watergate scandal and successfully challenge the federal government over the right to publish the Pentagon papers. His passion for accuracy and unyielding pursuit of truth continue to set the standard for journalism. The honorable. William. Among the -- Public servants of our time. President William. Served his state in the governor's mansion and guided our nation into a new century. As the 42 president of the United States Bill Clinton oversaw an -- of challenge and change prosperity and progress. His work after leaving public office continues to reflect his passionate unending commitment. To improving the lives and livelihoods of people around the world. In responding to needs both at home in -- -- And as founder of the Clinton foundation. He has shown that through creative cooperation among women and men of goodwill we can solve even the most intractable problems. Okay. -- marine. Iran in a way excepting on behalf of her husband the honorable Daniel K in -- way. And -- Patriot and dedicated public servant Daniel -- and way. Understood the power of leaders when united in common purpose to protect and promote the tenants we cherish as Americans. As a member of the revered 442. Regimental combat team. Daniel in ways helped free Europe from the grasp of -- during World War II for which he received the medal upon. Representing the people of Hawaii. From the moment the -- join the union he never lost sight of the ideals that bind us across the fifty states. Senator in ways reason and resolved help make our country what it is today and for that we honor him. Doctor Daniel. Common. Daniel -- groundbreaking work earned him a Nobel prize in economic sciences for his research developing prospect area. After escaping from Nazi occupied France as a young boy and later joining the Israel defense forces. Doctor common group interest and an understanding the origins of people's beliefs. Combining psychology. And economic analysis and working alongside doctor Amos -- -- Doctor -- -- simple experiments to demonstrate how people make decisions under uncertain circumstances. And he forever changed the way we view human judgment. The honorable Richard G Lugar. -- -- the state of Indiana for over three decades in the United States senate Richard G Lugar put country above party and self. To forge bipartisan consensus. Throughout his time in the senate he offered effective solutions to our national and international problems. Advocating for the control of nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction. Working with senator Sam Nunn Richard Lugar a stab -- and Nunn Lugar cooperative threat reduction program. One of our country's most successful national security initiatives. Helping to sustain American leadership and engaged nations in collaboration after decades of confrontation. He remains a strong voice on foreign policy issues and his informed perspective we'll have broad influence for years to come. Loretta Lynn. Born a coal miner's daughter Loretta Lynn has followed a bold path to become a legend in country music. A singer songwriter and -- She is written dozens of chart topping songs released scores of albums and won numerous accolades. Breaking barriers in country music and entertainment. She opened doors for women not only by winning tremendous achievements but also by raising issues few dared to discuss. Fearlessly telling her own stories with candor and humor Loretta Lynn has brought a strong female voice to mainstream music. Captured the emotions of women and men alike. And reveal the common truths about life as it is live. Doctor Mario. Molina. Curiosity and creativity that inspired Mario Molina to convert his family's bathroom into a laboratory as a child. Had driven him through decades of scientific for search. Born in Mexico doctor -- -- passion for chemistry. Brought him to the United States. Where his investigations of chlorofluorocarbons. Led to breakthroughs in our understanding of how they deplete the ozone layer. The impact of his discoveries extends far beyond his field. Affecting environmental policy and fostering international awareness as well as earning him the 1995. Nobel prize in chemistry. Today doctor Molina remains a global leader continuing to study air quality climate change and the environment that connects us all. -- Shaughnessy excepting on behalf of her life partner doctor. Doctor Sally K. Ride. A thirty years ago. Doctor Sally K. Ride soared into space as the youngest American and first woman to Wear the stars and stripes above Earth's atmosphere. As an astronaut she sought to keep America at the forefront of space exploration. As a role model she fought tirelessly to inspire young people especially girls. To become scientifically literate and to pursue careers in science technology. Engineering and math. At the end -- life. She became an inspiration for those battling pancreatic cancer and for the lesbian gay bisexual and transgender community. The tale of a quiet hero Sally ride story demonstrates that the sky is no limit for those who dream of reaching for the stars. Walter Nagel excepting on behalf of his partner. Buyer -- -- -- was a giant in the American civil rights movement. Openly gay at a time when many had to hide who they loved his unwavering belief that we are all equal members of a single human family. Took him from his first freedom ride to the lesbian gay bisexual and transgender. Rights movement. Thanks to his unparalleled skills as an organizer. Progress that once seemed impossible appears in retrospect. To have been inevitable. Fifty years after the march on Washington he organized. America honors buyer rust. As one of its greatest architects for social change any fearless advocate for its most vulnerable citizens. A yeah. Hero send evolved. For a -- -- of -- is one of the world's finest jazz musicians. Born into poverty in Cuba and held back by his government he risked everything to share his gifts with the world. Eventually defecting with help from Dizzy Gillespie his mentor and friend. In the decades since this astonishing trumpeter pianist and composer has inspired audiences in every corner of the world. And awakened a new generation of great performers he remains one of the best ever to play. When -- Smith. Accepting on behalf of her husband dean. Okay. He. Piece Smith spent 36 seasons taking college basketball to new heights. As head coach at the university of north Carolina at Chapel Hill. He led his team to eleven final fours two national titles and 879. Victories. Retiring as the winningest men's college basketball coach in history. Dean Smith brought the same commitment to supporting his players off the court. He helped more than 96%. Of -- Letterman graduate. And in an era of deep division he taught players to overcome bigotry with courage and compassion. He will forever stand as one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history. Gloria Stein. A trailblazing writer and feminist organizer. Gloria Steinem has been at the forefront of the fight for equality and social justice for more than four decades. Instrumental to a broad range of initiatives and issues from establishing ms. magazine. And take our daughters to work day to pushing for women's self empowerment. And an end to sex trafficking. She has promoted lasting political and social change in America and abroad. Through her reporting and speaking she has shaped debates on the intersection of sex and race brought critical problems to national attention. And forged new opportunities for women in media. Gloria Steinem continues. To move us all to take up the calls of reaching for a more just tomorrow. Reverend CT -- Equipped only with courage and an overwhelming commitment to social justice. The reverend CT Vivian was a stalwart activist on the march toward racial equality. Whether at a lunch counter on a freedom ride or behind the bars of a prison cell. He was unafraid to take bold action in the face of fierce resistance. By pushing change through nonviolent demonstrations and advocacy. CT Vivian established and led numerous organizations. To support underserved individuals and communities. His legacy of combating injustice will shine as an example for generations to come. Patricia McGowan wall. Patricia my gallon Walt made history as the first woman appointed. To the United States court of appeals for the District of Columbia circuit. Rising to chief judge of the court she always strove to better understand the law and fairly apply it. After leaving federal service judge -- help institute standards for justice and the rule of law. At the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the hate. Hailed as a model judge she laid a foundation for countless women. Within the legal profession and helped unveil the humanity within the law. Oprah -- -- -- -- -- G Winfrey is a global media icon. When she launched the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986. There were few women and even fewer women of color. With a national platform to discuss the issues and events shaping our times. But over the 25 years that followed. Oprah Winfrey's -- -- gift for tapping into our most fervent hopes and deepest fears drew millions of viewers across every background. Making her show the highest rated talk show in television history. -- scoring Oprah Winfrey has used her influence to support underserved communities and to lift up the lives of young people especially young women. Around the world. In her story we are reminded that no dream can be deferred when we refuse to let life's obstacles keep us down. Okay. On race plays. All right well the back concludes the formal part today's ceremony. I want to thank. All of you for being here obviously. We are deeply indebted to. Those who we honor here today. And we're gonna -- to take some pictures -- -- honorees and their family members. The rest of you. I understand the food here is pretty good. So. I hope you enjoy the reception. And you know I hope we carry away from this. A reminder of what JFK. Understood to be the essence of the American spirit that it's represented. Here and -- of -- may be less talented but we all have the opportunity to to serve them. Open people's hearts and minds. You know and in -- smaller. Orbits. So I hope -- has been inspired as I have been participating in being with these people here today thank you very much -- -- and watching President Obama this show me. Medal of freedom six -- civilians it is the highest civilian award. Given by this nation -- their recipients ranging from former President Bill Clinton to. Talk show host Oprah Winfrey. Feminist icon Gloria Steinem and he goes on sixteen recipients and -- you've been watching an ABC news details. --

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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