Civil Rights Hero Bayard Rustin, Astronaut Sally Ride to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Two LGBT heroes are among 16 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom announced today by President Obama. The award is 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.

RustinFrom the White House announcement:

Sally Ride (posthumous)

Sally Ride was the first American female astronaut to travel to space.  As a role model to generations of young women, she advocated passionately for science education, stood up for racial and gender equality in the classroom, and taught students from every background that there are no limits to what they can accomplish.  Dr. Ride also served in several administrations as an advisor on space exploration.

Bayard Rustin (posthumous)

Bayard Rustin was an unyielding activist for civil rights, dignity, and equality for all.  An advisor to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he promoted nonviolent resistance, participated in one of the first Freedom Rides, organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and fought tirelessly for marginalized communities at home and abroad.  As an openly gay African American, Mr. Rustin stood at the intersection of several of the fights for equal rights.

Also receiving the honor: Ernie Banks, Ben Bradlee, Bill Clinton, Daniel Inouye, Daniel Kahneman, Richard Lugar, Loretta Lynn, Mario Molina, Arturo Sandoval, Dean Smith, Gloria Steinem, Cordy Tindell "C.T." Vivian, Patricia Wald, and Oprah Winfrey.


  1. Mel Smith says

    It’s really great to find out that Bayard Rustin is being recognized with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work in human rights. He was a great man and one of my heroes. I also appreciate and thank President Obama for honoring him.

  2. Brian in Texas says

    Bayard Rustin is one of the unsung heros of the civil rights movement. Everyone should seek out the documentary “Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin”.

  3. Paul R says

    I saw a one-man play about Rustin nearly 20 years ago, in DC. It was fantastic and should have had wider exposure.

  4. Marguerite Gautier says

    Bayard Rustin had a beautiful high lyric tenor voice. There’ a recording of him singing spirituals and Elizabethan songs that is very beautiful.

  5. Bill Perdue says

    A decent president would add presidential medals to Manning and Snowden. Obama’s ceaseless warmongering and his orders to commit the racist murders of Anwar al-Aulaqi, Samir Khan, ‘Abd al-Rahman Anwar al-Aulaqi and Jude Mohammed are not just indecent, they’re criminal.

    Manning, a soldier who did his duty exposing the criminality of the Bushes, Clintons and Obama also deserves the Congressional Medal of Honor.

  6. Kevin says

    Bayard Rustin is an unsung hero in so many ways.
    It’s a shame that some of the people he marched with fight against the racism he faced but helped encourage the homophobia on the other hand.

  7. Michael Bedwell says

    I’m thrilled that Rustin is finally getting his LONG-overdue PMF. But calling Sally Ride and “LGBT Hero,” even if it weren’t in the same breath as a GIANT like Rustin, is a bridge too far. A more accurate—and fairer—description is that she was a hero who simply happened to be gay for she went to the grave just two years ago still needlessly in the public closet. The bitterest irony is that her death in that closet came more than half a century after the dream of becoming an astronaut of Frank Kameny was shot down, along with his entire government career, by the US Army Map Service and Civil Service Commission because he was gay. Why hasn’t Mr. Obama given the undisputed father of the militant gay rights movement the Medal of FREEDOM even ignoring the fact that it could be said that the changes he wrought in the government’s attitude towards gays enabled Ride to soar into space on his shoulders.

  8. Paul R says

    Ride was awarded the prize more for being the first female astronaut than for being an LGBT trailblazer.

    Not to mention, I rather doubt that Obama spent even 5 minutes thinking about these awards. They have committees for that.

  9. Rowan says

    I agree about Bayard. Wish more African Americans knew of what this man did for THEM as a GAY man.