TONI MORRISON: HONORED BY PRESIDENT OBAMA WITH MEDAL OF FREEDOM
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- It's one thing to get the Medal of Freedom award -- the nation's highest civilian honor. And it's something to have that award put around your neck by the President of the United States. But it has to be a much bigger deal when the man who gives you the honor talks about how your work has impressed him on a personal level. That was the feeling writer Toni Morrison no doubt felt as she was one of 13 people who were awarded the Medal of Freedom at the White House East Room yesterday. In presenting the award, President Barack Obama said he had a personal connection to some of the recipients -- saying they were his "heroes individually." One of those "heroes" was Morrison. Obama recalled how reading Morrison's "Song of Solomon" as a young person -- and said it not only helped him figure out how to write, but also "how to be and how to think." Obama had a similar view of singer-songwriter Bob Dylan's work. The president said he listened to Dylan in college and found his music "captured something about this country that was so vital."
The Medal of Freedom is given to those who have made significant contributions to the national interests of the United States, to world peace or other significant endeavors. Other recipients yesterday included former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the first woman to hold the job and John Doar, who handled civil rights cases as assistant attorney general in the 1960s.