Obama Recognizes Gloria and Emilio Estefan with Nation's Highest Civlian Award

President Barack Obama recognized 17 people on Tuesday with the nation's highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, including Miami natives Gloria and Emilio Estefan.

"Just being on that list with those amazing people, getting this award, it was awesome," Gloria Estefan said.

This is the highest award that a civilian in the United States can get. The couple were honored for their musical and cultural contributions to our nation.

"Some worry they were too American for Latins and too Latin for Americans. It turns out everybody just wanted to dance and do the Conga. 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," President Obama said.

"Today we were thinking about Miami. Thinking about the Latino community and saying that we are proud. We never left Miami, we never changed our name and I think that's an important thing to recognize," Emilio Estefan said.

Other entertainers who received the award were Barbra Streisand, Steven Spielberg, Stephen Sondheim, James Taylor and Itzhak Perlman.

Politicians included three Democrats: Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, former Rep. Lee Hamilton from Indiana and the late Rep. Shirley Chisholm from New York, the first African-American woman elected to Congress.

Honorees from the sports were Willie Mays and the late Yogi Berra.

Other honorees included veterans advocate Bonnie Carroll; NASA mathematician Katherine G. Johnson and former EPA chief and deputy attorney general William Ruckelshaus. He's known for refusing to fire the Watergate special prosecutor.

Posthumous recipients included Indian tribal advocate Billy Frank Jr. and civil rights advocate Minoru Yasui.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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