On Tuesday, President Obama gave out the Presidential Medals of Freedom in a ceremony honoring thirteen individuals, reports the Washington Examiner. The medal is the country’s highest civilian honor, awarded to people who have made major contributions to the security of the United States, world peace or culture, or have worked on “other significant public or private endeavors.”
One of the recipients this year was Dolores Huerta, labor leader and civil rights activist who co-founded (with Cesar Chavez) the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers. While Chavez was awarded the medal in 1994, Huerta was given this medal not only to recognize her contributions in that endeavor, but also to acknowledge her ongoing contributions to social programs. Obama also noted that it was her who coined the original slogan, “si, se puede!”
“Dolores was very gracious when I told her I had stolen her slogan, 'Si, se puede.' Yes, we can," Obama said. "Knowing her, I'm pleased she let me off easy, because Dolores does not play," he joked.
The other medal recipients included: Musician Bob Dylan, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Justice Department civil rights lawyer John Doar, epidemiologist William Foege, writer Toni Morrison, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, college basketball coach Pat Summitt, Israeli President Shimon Peres, astronaut and former senator John Glenn, and Gordon Hirabayashi, who fought Japanese-American internment during World War Two.
He also awarded the medal to two people posthumously: Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low and Jan Karski, an officer in the Polish underground who carried his eyewitness account of Nazi atrocities to the outside world.