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Oprah Winfrey, Gloria Steinem, Ben Bradlee, and Bill Clinton are among the recipients of this year's Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian national honor out there. They're joining a small class of about 500 who've received the honor since it was established 50 years ago. 

Here's how the White House describes the criteria for the medal: "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." Obama's statement on this year's crop explains:

“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."

Oprah, the White House explains, "has long been active in philanthropic causes and expanding opportunities for young women," adding that she's no stranger to accolades: the talk show host was already honored at the Kennedy Center in 2010. 

As for Bill Clinton, the White House lauds his work with the Clinton Foundation to "improve global health, strengthen economies, promote health and wellness, and protect the environment.  He also formed the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund with President George W. Bush in 2010." 

The other recipients are: baseball player Ernie Banks, former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, former senator Daniel Inouye (posthumous), psychologist Daniel Kahneman, former senator Richard Lugar,  country music singer Loretta Lynn, chemist Mario Molina, astronaut Sally Ride (posthumous), civil rights activist Bayard Rustin (posthumous), jazz musician Arturo Sandoval, former UNC basketball coach Dean Smith, writer and activist Gloria Steinem, minister and organizer Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian, and judge Patricia Wald. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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