Toni Morrison and Bob Dylan to be Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Toni Morrison and Bob Dylan have been named as two of 13 recipients of  the Presidential Medal of Freedom.   In a statement from the White House last Thursday, President Obama said, “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.  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.”   The  honorees  will be awarded and celebrated in a White House ceremony in the late spring.

Morrison’s 1993 Nobel Prize for Literature marked the first time an African American woman received the award.  In her address to the Rutgers class of 2011, she said, “I know that happiness has been the real, if covert, goal of your labors here. I know that it informs your choice of companions, the profession you will enter, but I urge you, please don’t settle for happiness. It’s not good enough. Of course, you deserve it. But if that is all you have in mind—happiness—I want to suggest to you that personal success devoid of meaningfulness, free of a steady commitment to social justice, that’s more than a barren life, it is a trivial one. It’s looking good instead of doing good.”

In praising Dylan’s five decades of music, the White House noted his “considerable influence on the civil rights movement of the 1960s,” and highlighted his 11 Grammys, including a lifetime achievement award and his  2009 National Medal of Arts.

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