President Obama has honored more civilians with the Medal of Freedom than any other president in history.
His most recent ceremony raising the total number to 123 recipients.
Former President Ronald Reagan came in a close second—awarding a total of 101 Medals of Freedom, followed by Bill Clinton with a total of 92 recipients, and George W. Bush with a total of 78 Medals of Freedom.
However, there are a few differences between the list of President Obama’s recipients and the lists of other presidents.
Among the many humanitarian, activism, and diplomacy recipients, Obama has also honored sports heroes like Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Ernie Banks, and Vin Scully.
He’s honored television stars like Ellen DeGeneres, Lorne Michaels, and Oprah Winfrey.
And he’s honored iconic musicians like Bob Dylan, Gloria Estefan, and Diana Ross.
The President has certainly chosen the recipients based off merit, but also based off his own personal affinity.
When addressing the nation in his last Medal of Freedom ceremony, President Obama said:
“Everyone on this stage has touched me in a powerful personal way. These are folks who have helped make me who I am and think about my presidency.”
And in the last ceremony under his administration, the majority of the recipients certainly have “touched” the President in a powerful personal way — and donated to the Democratic party according to the Federal Election Commission.
Check it out:
- Ellen DeGeneres: Donated $35,800 in 2012 to the Obama Victory Fund and $100,000 in 2016 to the Hillary Victory Fund.
- Robert De Niro: Donated $10,000 to the Obama Victory Fund and $2,500 to Obama’s general election campaign in 2012.
- Tom Hanks: Donated $2,300 to Obama’s election campaign in 2008, $2,500 in 2012, and $2,700 to Hillary’s primary campaign in 2016.
- Michael Jordan: Threw a $3 million fundraiser, for $20,000 per person during Obama’s 2012 campaign.
- Lorne Michaels: Donated $4,600 to the Obama Victory Fund in 2008.
- Bruce Springsteen: Donated $13,200 to Democratic committees such as Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and Russ Feingold (D., Wis.)
- Robert Redford: Endorsed Obama in 2012 and fundraised for Feingold (D., Wis.) in 2016.
- Bill Gates: Donated $17,900 to the Obama Victory Fund in 2012 and $50,000 to Obama’s inauguration in 2009 along with Melinda Gates.
- Melinda Gates: Donated $35,800 to the joint fundraising committee and $5,000 to Obama’s 2012 primary and general election campaigns.
- Frank Gehry: Donated $4,600 to Obama’s campaign in 2008, $80,000 to the Obama Victory Fund in 2012, and $60,000 to the Hillary Victory Fund.
- Newt Minow: Donated $7,500 to committees supporting Obama in the early 2000s.
Is that just par for the course, when it comes to presidents’ choices?
Not so much.
If you look at the recipients of former President George W. Bush’s medals, they spent their money differently:
- Aretha Franklin- Donated $1,000 to a democratic senator in 1997.
- Estée Lauder: Donated $25,000 to Citizens for Club Growth Inc. in 2002.
- Carol Burnett: Donated $3,500 to the DCCC and DNC within the last few years.
- Bill Cosby: $1,000 to democratic senator in 2004.
- Andy Griffith: Donated $1,000 to John Kerry for President Fund in 2004.
- Arnold Palmer: Donated $1,000 to Bush for President Fund in 2000.
Although these are only a few recipients of both presidents’ ceremonies, the surfacing pattern is obvious.
The New York Times speculated that President Obama held an additional Medal of Freedom ceremony just two months after what many believed was to be his last because many of the recipients “would probably never receive such an honor from his successor, President-elect Donald J. Trump.”
With the last group including physicist Richard Garwin, NASA scientist Margaret H. Hamilton, and higher educator Eduardo Padrón, it’s clear President Obama is investing as much into his legacy as the recipients have into their fields, and the democratic party.