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President George H.W. Bush to receive highest civilian honor

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • President George H.W. Bush will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • 14 other individuals will also receive the medal
  • On the list: Angela Merkel, Yo-Yo Ma, Bill Russell, Jean Kennedy Smith
  • President Barack Obama will give the awards next year

Washington (CNN) -- Former President George H.W. Bush is one of 15 individuals who will receive America's highest civilian honor early next year, the White House announced Wednesday.

Bush will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is "presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors," according to a White House statement.

The other recipients of the medal will be: German Chancellor Angela Merkel; Georgia congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis; Natural Resources Defense Council co-founder John Adams; poet Maya Angelou; investor Warren Buffett; artist Jasper Johns; Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissman Klein; humanitarian activist Tom Little, who was killed in Afghanistan; cellist Yo-Yo Ma; civil rights activist Sylvia Mendez; St. Louis Cardinals baseball legend Stan Musial; Boston Celtics NBA legend Bill Russell; non-profit leader and former Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith; and AFL-CIO chief John Sweeney.

"These outstanding honorees come from a broad range of backgrounds and they've excelled in a broad range of fields, but all of them have lived extraordinary lives that have inspired us, enriched our culture, and made our country and our world a better place," Obama said in the statement. "I look forward to awarding them this honor."