The Washington Times - April 26, 2012, 05:56PM

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, musician Bob Dylan and astronaut John Glenn were among a select group of 13 Americans named by President Obama Thursday as the latest recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

The medals, which the president will present to recipients at a White House ceremony, recognize individuals who have made “especially meritorious contributions” to the security or national interests of the Unites States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant endeavors, according to the White House’s Thursday announcement.

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“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,” Mr. Obama said in a release. “They’ve challenged us, they’ve inspired us, and they’ve made the world a better place. I look forward to recognizing them with this award.”

Other than Ms. Albright, Mr. Dylan and Mr. Glenn, Mr. Obama also named Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, former Israeli President Shimon Peres, Novelist Toni Morrison, former University of Tennessee Women’s Basketball coach Pat Summit, worker’s rights leader Dolores Huerta and civil rights leader John Doar.

The president also chose William Foege, the physician who led the campaign to eradicate smallpox, Gordon Hirabayashi, who openly defied the forced relocation and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, Jan Karski, who served as an office in the Polish Underground during World War II and was one of the first eye-witnesses of the Holocaust, as well as Juliette Gordon Low, who founded the Girl Scouts in 1912.

The White House said it was recognizing Ms. Albright, who served as secretary of state under President Clinton from 1997 to 2001 and was first woman to hold the position, for her work enlarging the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and helping lead the alliance’s campaign against terror and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. Mr. Dylan, one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, was is known for his “rich and poetic lyrics” and his work had “considerable influence on the civil rights movements of the 1960s and has had significant impact on American culture over the past five decades,” the White House said.

Mr. Glenn’s selection was just a matter of time. The former senator and astronaut was the third American in space and the first American to orbit the earth and was the oldest person to visit space at the age of 77.