Oprah, Ernie Banks To Get Presidential Medal of Freedom

Former Cubs star to be recognized with Dean Smith

Thursday, Aug 8, 2013  |  Updated 2:38 PM CDT
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Mr. Cub, Is This the Year?

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Media maven Oprah Winfrey and famed Chicago Cubs shortstop Ernie Banks are among this year's recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom award, the White House announced.

President Barack Obama said Thursday that Winfrey and Banks, aka Mr. Cub, are among 16 people to get the award, considered the nation's highest civilian honor. Other recipients include Gloria Steinem, Bill Clinton, Ben Bradlee, Dan Inouye and Loretta Lynn.

"This year's honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world," Obama said in a statement. "It will be my honor to present them with a token of our nation's gratitude."

Winfrey signed off from her iconic, Chicago-based syndicated talk show in May 2011 after 25 years. She left to dedicate time to her Oprah Winfrey Network, which recently reported a profit.

"Oprah Winfrey is one of the world’s most successful broadcast journalists," the White House said. "She is best known for creating The Oprah Winfrey Show, which became the highest rated talk show in America for 25 years. Ms. Winfrey has long been active in philanthropic causes and expanding opportunities for young women."

Banks, ranked among baseball's best and one of Chicago's favorites, was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977.

"Ernie Banks is one of the greatest baseball players of all time," the White House said. "During his 19 seasons with the Chicago Cubs, he played in 11 All-Star Games, hit over 500 home runs, and became the first National League player to win Most Valuable Player honors in back-to-back years."

A time and date for the presentation of the medals has yet to be announced.

Past sports recipients of the award include Joe DiMaggio, Billie Jean King,  Arnold Palmer, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron and Muhammad Ali. In total more than 500 individuals have been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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