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The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian award given by the United States. Given annually since 1963, the medal recognizes people who have made an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. While there have been many recipients since the creation of this prestigious award, President Barack Obama made history when he became the first-ever U.S. president to give this award to a member of the animal kingdom in 2014, awarding it to a beluga whale named commemorating his own health care law. The First Ever Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

The First Ever Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
The First Ever Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Dr. Jonas Salk – Influenza Inventor

In 1963, Dr. Jonas Salk became the first-ever recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Dr. Salk was recognized for his work in developing a vaccine for polio – a disease that once crippled millions of children around the world. The Salk vaccine is credited with saving the lives of countless children and helping to eradicate polio from most of the globe. Today, Dr. Salk’s legacy continues on through his foundation, which is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of people worldwide. The First Ever Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

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William Foege – Control of Smallpox in Africa

William Foege was the first person to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work in controlling smallpox in Africa. Before his work, smallpox was a major problem in Africa, with millions of people dying each year. Foege’s work helped to save millions of lives and is an example of how one person can make a huge difference in the world.

Mother Teresa – Missionary

On December 10, 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson presented the first-ever Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mother Teresa. The medal is considered the highest civilian award in the United States, and is given to those who have made an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. Teresa was a missionary who devoted her life to helping the poor and sick in India.

The First Ever Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
The First Ever Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Shimon Peres – Peacemaker

On November 13, 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded the first-ever Presidential Medal of Freedom to Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. The medal is considered the highest civilian honor in the United States, and it is given to those who have made an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. In Peres’s case, he was being recognized for his efforts to bring peace to the Middle East.

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Archbishop Desmond Tutu – Anti-Apartheid Activist

Archbishop Desmond Tutu was born in Klerksdorp, South Africa, on October 7, 1931. He is a retired Anglican bishop who rose to worldwide fame during the 1980s as an opponent of apartheid. In 1984 he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in leading and then calming the opposition movement. He has been called the world’s most famous human rights activist.

Steven Spielberg – Director/Producer

Steven Spielberg was the first-ever recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, an award bestowed by the president of the United States to recognize people who have made an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. Spielberg is a world-renowned director and producer, responsible for some of Hollywood’s most iconic films.

Billy Graham – Evangelist

On May 5, 1963, President John F. Kennedy presented the first-ever Presidential Medal of Freedom to evangelist Billy Graham. The prestigious award is given to those who have made significant contributions to the security or national interests of our country, world peace, or cultural endeavors. Mr. Graham was a close friend and confidant of President Kennedy, and his work as an evangelist has spanned more than six decades. He is truly deserving of this honor.

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What does the Presidential Medal of Freedom?

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is an award bestowed by the president of the United States to recognize people who have made an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. The first recipient of this award was President John F. Kennedy.

The First Ever Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
The First Ever Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

How do you get the Presidential Medal of Freedom?

The first step is to be nominated by a current or former president, a member of Congress, or the American people. Then, a special presidential commission reviews the nominee’s qualifications and decides whether or not to recommend them to the president. If the commission recommends the nominee, the president then decides whether or not to award them the medal.

What benefits do Medal of Freedom recipients get?

While the award is largely an honorary one, recipients do receive a few benefits. These include a lapel pin, a citation certificate, and tickets to any events related to the award ceremony. In addition, their names are entered into the National Archives and Records Administration.

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