Bob Dylan, Madeleine Albright, Shimon Peres and Jan Karski will all receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom this summer.
“These extraordinary honorees come from different backgrounds and different walks of life, but each of them has made a lasting contribution to the life of our nation,” President Barack Obama said in a press release.
The four honorees will be given the nation’s highest civilian honor along with nine others sometime in late spring at a date not yet released.
Albright only found out she was Jewish as soon as she was simultaneously becoming the first woman to serve as secretary of state, even though she was raised as a Roman Catholic. In a recent Washington Post interview, Albright described the experience as “being asked to represent the country in a marathon, then being handed a heavy package and then being asked to unwrap it while you run.”
Albright, born as Marie Jana Korbelová in Prague, didn’t know her heritage for most of her adult life because her parents fled with her from Czechoslovakia shortly after the Nazi occupation in 1939.
Albright served as the American ambassador to the U.N., a tenure that she now regrets because “of the failure of the United States and the international community to act sooner to halt these crimes [during the Rwandan genocide].” As secretary of state, Albright was deeply involved in the U.S. foreign-policy considerations in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Middle East (check out this really cool pic with Albright alongside some of the biggest names in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict).
Singer/songwriter and American icon Dylan’s voice can be recognized by just about anyone with a love of American rock and folk music. And unlike his grandson Pablo, the fledgling rapper, Dylan has forever transformed music with such classics like “Like A Rolling Stone” and “The Times They Are A-Changin.’”
Dylan was heavily involved in the Civil Rights Movements, releasing the song “Hurricane” in opposition to the imprisonment of a black boxer for a crime many believed he was innocent of.
Dylan, born Robert Allen Zimmerman, came from a very Jewish household. He went to Herzl Camp as a child, and his father was the president of B’nai Brith.
And it turns out, Dylan and Obama have met at least once before. Dylan has performed at the White House.
Obama announced at the Holocaust Museum on April 23 that he would be awarding the medal posthumously to righteous gentile Karski, who died in 2000 at Georgetown University Hospital.
Karski “carried among the first eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust to the world,” the White House said during his time working for the Polish Underground, spreading knowledge fo the Shoah, both during and after WWII, by infiltrating the Warsaw Ghetto and a German concentration camp.
Israeli President Peres has been a force in Israeli politics for many years. A avid supporter of the peace process, Peres told AIPAC Policy Conference 2012 attendees that Obama has been “such a good friend” to Israel shortly before being introduced by a choir of children in white robes singing the Hatikvah.
Similar to the Karski announcement, Obama used his address at AIPAC to announce Peres’ reception of the award while Peres was in the audience.
Peres was recently quoted in this interview with Haaretz as saying the following:
“The public (…) does not want governance or rulers. The public wants leaders of another kind. Not the sort who stand up and say: ‘I am on top, I am a hero, I am strong,’ but rather the sort who go forward. The sort who want to serve, not to reign. When I was prime minister, I tried to be that sort.”
And if that didn’t convince you, he also lauds the Jewish people for being “the people of the Facebook.” He has quite a way with the kids nowadays, doesn’t he?