When asked about receiving the Medal of Freedom, Streep explained, "Well, I thought he deserved it! It's a pretty amazing thing. I sort of can't quite figure it out myself — for myself — but [I'm] very, very honored and sort of gobsmacked by the whole thing. We'll fly down together next Sunday night, so that will be fun."
President Barack Obama announced the recipients Nov. 10. The awards, the nation's highest civilian honor, are presented at the White House.
Choreographer, dancer, and the founder of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Alvin Ailey, receives the medal posthumously.
Actress, producer, best-selling author and social activist Marlo Thomas (Relatively Speaking) and singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder are also among the list. "I look forward to presenting these nineteen bold, inspiring Americans with our Nation’s highest civilian honor," said the President in an earlier statement. "From activists who fought for change to artists who explored the furthest reaches of our imagination; from scientists who kept America on the cutting edge to public servants who help write new chapters in our American story, these citizens have made extraordinary contributions to our country and the world."
Recipients also include author Isabel Allende; journalist Tom Brokaw; civil rights activists and participants in "Freedom Summer," James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner (posthumous); physicists and materials scientist Mildred Dresselhaus; John Dingell, a lifelong public servant, the longest serving Member of Congress in American history and influential legislator; Ethel Kennedy, who has advanced the cause of social justice, human rights, environmental protection and poverty reduction; writer, curator and activist Suzan Harjo; Abner Mikva, a five-term congressman from Illinois, chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and White House Counsel for President Bill Clinton; Patsy Takemoto Mink, a Congresswoman from Hawaii; Edward Roybal (posthumous), the first Mexican-American to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from California in nearly a century; professional golfer Charles Sifford; and economist Robert Solow.