Obama to honor Bill Clinton, Oprah with Presidential Medal of Freedom

President Obama will present former President Clinton and talk show host Oprah Winfrey with the Presidential Medial Freedom — the nation's highest civilian honor.

The award is given to those who made meritorious contributions to the United States.

Traditionally, former presidents are given the award for their service. Obama awarded the medal to former President George H.W. Bush in February 2011.

Winfrey, one of the nation's most famous talk show hosts, was an early supporter of Obama's candidacy for president.

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The White House announced 16 recipients on Thursday, with the awards to be presented at the White House later this year.

Also receiving the award are former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, who oversaw the paper's coverage of the Watergate scandal; the late Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii); former Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who was one of Obama's closest friends in the Senate; country singer Loretta Lynn; the late astronaut Sally Ride, who was the first woman in space; and women's rights activist Gloria Steinem.

Inouye and Ride will be awarded the medals posthumously.

Additionally, former Chicago Cubs baseball player Ernie Banks, former Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, environmental scientist Mario Molina, the late civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, musician Arturo Sandoval, former University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith, civil rights activist Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian and Judge Patricia Wald will be honored.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the executive order signed by President Kennedy that established the award. Since that time, more than 500 medals have been presented.

"The Presidential Medal of Freedom goes to men and women who have dedicated their own lives to enriching ours. This year's honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world. It will be my honor to present them with a token of our nation's gratitude," Obama said in a statement.