What do music legend Bob Dylan, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and novelist Toni Morrison have in common? Today they will join the small but elite club of political and cultural icons to receive the nation's highest civilian honor: the Medal of Freedom.
This year's Medal of Freedom recipients, 13 in all, will come together at the White House this afternoon, where President Obama will honor their accomplishments and present the awards.
The Medal of Freedom recognizes "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," according to the White House.
Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Mr. Tambourine Man," Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "Beloved," and Albright's efforts to champion democracy, human rights and good governance across the globe are all considered accomplishments worthy of this honor.
Other recipients include U.S. Sen. John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth; retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens; former Israeli President Shimon Peres and Pat Summitt, the "winningest" NCAA basketball coach who led the University of Tennessee's women's basketball team to more Final Four appearances than any other team.
"These extraordinary honorees come from different backgrounds and different walks of life, but each of them has made a lasting contribution to the life of our nation," the president said in a written statement. "They've challenged us, they've inspired us, and they've made the world a better place. I look forward to recognizing them with this award."