Watch Sondheim and Streisand Accept Medal of Freedom (Video); Plus Transcript of President's Remarks

News   Watch Sondheim and Streisand Accept Medal of Freedom (Video); Plus Transcript of President's Remarks
 
Broadway's Stephen Sondheim, Barbra Streisand and Gloria Estefan were among the 17 American legends who accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama at the White House Nov. 24.

The award is the USA’s highest civilian honor, presented to people "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."

Here is the complete ceremony. Watch remarks below as the President fastens the medal on Sondheim (at the 36:45 mark), Streisand (39:32) and Gloria and Emilio Estefan (26:23), creators and subjects of the new Broadway musical On Your Feet!

Here's what the President had to say about the winners:

On Sondheim: "As a composer and a lyricist, and a genre unto himself, Sondheim challenges his audiences. His greatest hits aren't tunes you can hum; they're reflections on roads we didn't take, and wishes gone wrong, relationships so frayed and fractured there's nothing left to do but 'Send in the Clowns.' Yet Stephen's music is so beautiful, his lyrics so precise, that even as he exposes the imperfections of everyday life, he transcends them. We transcend them. Put simply, Stephen reinvented the American musical. He's loomed large over more than six decades in the theatre. And with revivals from Broadway to the big screen, he is still here, 'pulling us up short, and giving us support for being alive.'"

On Streisand: "Born in Brooklyn to a middle-class Jewish family — I didn't know you were Jewish, Barbra — Barbra Streisand attended her first Broadway show at age 14 and remembers thinking, 'I could go up on that stage and play any role without any trouble at all.' That's what's called chutzpah. And it helps when you've got amazing talent, all of which made her a global sensation — one whose voice has been described as 'liquid diamonds,' and whose fans have considered bronzing her used coffee cups. She has sold more albums in America than any woman in history. She has collected just about every honor and award that there is. I couldn't believe she hadn't gotten this one. Off the stage, she has been a passionate advocate for issues like heart disease and women's equality. I'm getting all verklempt just thinking about it."

On Gloria and Emilio Estefan: "On a Miami night in 1975, a young woman named Gloria walked into a wedding reception and saw a handsome young man named Emilio leading his band. He was playing 'Do the Hustle' — on an accordion. I'm quoting her now — she said she found this 'sexy and brave.' I mean, the brave part I understand. But it turns out he had a few other things up his sleeve. He brought her up to sing a few songs that night, invited her to join his band. A few months later, Emilio asked Gloria for a birthday kiss. It was not her birthday — it wasn't his birthday. But he got the kiss anyway. And Emilio and Gloria Estefan have been partners — on and off stage — ever since. Some worried they were 'too American for Latins and too Latin for Americans.' Turns out everybody just wanted to dance and do the conga. And together, their fusion sound has sold more than 100 million records. And as proud Cuban-Americans, they've promoted their cultural heritage and inspired fans all over the world."

The other winners were a mix of entertainers in other media, athletes and public servants: Yogi Berra, Bonnie Carroll, Shirley Chisholm, Billy Frank, Jr., Lee Hamilton, Katherine G. Johnson, Willy Mays, Barbara Mikulski, Itzhak Perlman, William Ruckelshaus, Steven Spielberg, James Taylor and Minoru Yasui.

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