President Barack Obama is presenting 21 people with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Tuesday. Comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, actor Tom Hanks, NBA legend Michael Jordan, MLB announcer Vin Scully and more are set to gather at the White House to receive America’s highest civilian honor.
In a news release, Obama said the activists, athletes and artists “helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way.” He added that the medal is “a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better.”
The ceremony will be held at 2:55 p.m. ET. It will be the last time Obama presents the medals as president, and the Washington Post reports that he will surpass all other presidents in the number of medals given out after the ceremony.
Nine artists are among this year’s recipients. They included DeGeneres, who has advocated for equality and fairness, and Hanks, who has worked for social and environmental justice.
Academy Award-winning actors Robert De Niro and Robert Redford are also to be honored, along with designer Maya Lin, “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels, entertainer Diana Ross, musician Bruce Springsteen and Tony Award-winning actress Cicely Tyson.
Obama is set to acknowledge the achievements of American athletes and sports figures as well. Five-time MVP Michael Jordan played 15 seasons in the NBA, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and Vin Scully spent 67 seasons as the broadcaster of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers.
The president planned to present two posthumous awards to Elouise Cobell and Grace Hopper. Cobell was a Blackfeet Tribal community leader who advocated for Native American rights. She led a historic lawsuit that restored tribal homelands to Blackfeet Nation and other tribes.
Rear Admiral Hopper, known as “the first lady of software,” joined the United States Naval Reserve during World War II and went on to make incredible advancements in the field of computer science. She created the first compiler, a program that translates source code from one language into another.
Also among the honorees are Bill and Melina Gates, the Microsoft founder and his wife who help people lead healthy lives through their self-named foundation, and physicist Richard Garwin, who made remarkable contributions to U.S. intelligence technologies.