Highest Civilian Honor

Maya Lin and Frank Gehry to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Awards National
Architect-artist Maya Lin. She and Frank Gehyr will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. (Courtesy Forgemind ArchiMedia/Flickr)
Architect-artist Maya Lin. She and Frank Gehyr will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. (Courtesy Forgemind ArchiMedia/Flickr)

Two designers are among the 21 Americans chosen this month to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

President Barack Obama selected architect-artist Maya Lin and architect Frank Gehry to receive the medal, presented annually 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 medals will be presented at the White House on November 22.

“The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation’s highest civilian honor—it’s a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better,” Obama said in announcing the recipients. “From scientists, philanthropists, and public servants to activists, athletes, and artists, these 21 individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way.”

Lin was cited in the White House announcement as “an artist and designer who is known for her work in sculpture and landscape art. She designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. and since then has pursued a celebrated career in both art and architecture. A committed environmentalist, Lin is currently working on a multi-sited artwork/memorial, What is Missing? bringing awareness to the planet’s loss of habitat and biodiversity.”

Gehry was described as “one of the world’s leading architects, whose works have helped define contemporary architecture. His best-known buildings include the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the Dancing House in Prague, and the Guggenheim Museum building in Bilbao, Spain.”

Obama’s 2016 list includes 19 living Americans and 2 who have died, and is heavy on figures from the entertainment and sports industries. Others joining Lin and Gehry include: Ellen DeGeneres, Robert De Niro, Robert Redford, Lorne Michaels, Diana Ross, Vin Scully, Bill and Melinda Gates, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Bruce Springsteen, Cicely Tyson and Tom Hanks/David S. Pumpkins.

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