Rock legend Bob Dylan is seen at the White House, where he is among the recipients… (Charles Dharapak / Associated…)
WASHINGTON -- Folk singer Bob Dylan and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a ceremony at the White House on Tuesday afternoon.
A number of figures from the struggles and shifts of the 1960s were recognized Tuesday. Civil rights campaigner Dolores Huerta and astronaut John Glenn also received the medal.
The year 1962 looms especially large in President Obama’s picks: That was the year Dylan put out his first album, when Huerta cofounded the National Farm Workers Assn. and when Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth.
Photos: The 2012 Medal of Freedom recipients
The medal is the country’s highest civilian honor and the president has wide latitude in picking recipients. It is awarded to people who have made major contributions to the security of the United States, world peace, culture or who have undertaken “other significant public or private endeavors.”
Huerta and Cesar Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Assn., which later became the United Farm Workers. Throughout the 1960s and '70s, Huerta worked to extend social programs to farmworkers in California. President Clinton awarded Chavez the medal posthumously in 1994.
The medal hangs from a blue ribbon and consists of a blue disc filled with stars layered on a white star and red pentagon surrounded by golden eagles.
Former Department of Justice civil rights lawyer John Doar, epidemiologist William Foege, novelist Toni Morrison, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and college basketball coach Pat Summitt also received the award.
Gordon Hirabayashi, who fought against the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II; Jan Karski, an officer in the Polish Underground in the war; and Juliette Gordon Low, who founded the Girl Scouts, were honored posthumously.
Israeli President Shimon Peres will also receive the award, but will attend a separate ceremony later this year.