Former President Bill Clinton is headed back to the White House — just for a day — and Oprah is coming, too. Clinton and Oprah Winfrey will be among 16 people that President Barack Obama will venerate later this year with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the White House announced Thursday. They’ll join other prominent people to be honored this year, including musicians, scientists, activists — even an astronaut.
Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy created the modern version of the medal — the highest honor the U.S. bestows on civilians — with the stroke of a pen to an executive order. In the five decades since, more than 500 people have been recognized for contributions to society of all stripes.
“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,” Obama said in a statement.
Clinton, who served as Arkansas’ governor before being elected the 42nd president, will be recognized also for his humanitarian work through the Clinton Foundation, which promotes global public health, economic development and environmental protection. The White House also noted his work with former President George W. Bush to raise money for Haiti after the Caribbean nation’s devastating 2010 earthquake. Clinton also spoke on Obama’s behalf at the 2012 Democratic convention, and his wife, former Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, was Obama’s first-term secretary of state.