President Obama named fifteen recipients of the 2010 Medal of Freedom—the Nation’s highest civilian honor—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. The awards will be given out next year at the White House.
This year’s list includes President George H.W. Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, poet Maya Angelou, billionaire Warren Buffett and many others. Also on the list is Sylvia Mendez, the only Latino on the list. Last year Latina actress and dancer Chita Rivera received the Medal of Freedom.
Sylvia Mendez is a civil rights activist of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent. As an eight-year-old, her parents attempted to enroll Mendez in an all-white school in their community, but were denied entry at and were told to go to the school for Mexican children. Her father and other parents sued and prevailed. The Mendez v. Westminster case was a landmark decision in the civil rights movement against segregation. Mendez currently travels around the country giving speeches on the value of a good education.