Sally Ride, Bayard Ruston Named Presidential Medal of Freedom Honorees

Jim Burroway

August 8th, 2013

Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy innaugurated the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Today, the White House has announced sixteen new recipients of the nation’s highest civilian honor, with two gay honorees on the list:

Sally Ride (posthumous)
Sally Ride was the first American female astronaut to travel to space. As a role model to generations of young women, she advocated passionately for science education, stood up for racial and gender equality in the classroom, and taught students from every background that there are no limits to what they can accomplish. Dr. Ride also served in several administrations as an advisor on space exploration.

Bayard Rustin (posthumous)
Bayard Rustin was an unyielding activist for civil rights, dignity, and equality for all. An advisor to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he promoted nonviolent resistance, participated in one of the first Freedom Rides, organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and fought tirelessly for marginalized communities at home and abroad. As an openly gay African American, Mr. Rustin stood at the intersection of several of the fights for equal rights.

When Sally Ride flew aboard a Space Shuttle Challenger flight in 1983, she became the first American woman in space. She flew again on the Challenger a year later and was scheduled for a third mission, but it was cancelled after the Challenger exploded shortly after take-off in 1986. She served on the accident review crew for that flight, and served again in the investigation of the 2003 Columbia accident. When she died last summer, her obituary revealed that she was survived by her partner of 27 years.

This month marks the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, given on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Rustin is credited with teaching King about the principles of nonviolent protest when he met King during the Montgomery bus boycott, techniques Rustin honed during the first Freedom Rides in 1947 (for which Rustin spent 22 days on a chain gang for violating North Carolina’s Jim Crow laws). Rustin’s sexuality was often used against him by enemies of segregation and, later, by more militant members of the Black Power movement. He was forced to resign from King’s organization during the bus boycott, but King turned to Rustin to organize the 1963 March on Washington. In the end, King and other civil rights leaders refused to abandon him and expressed their confidence in Ruston’s abilities.

Other honorees include Chicago Cubs’ Earnie Banks, journalist Ben Bradlee, former President Bill Clinton, Sen. Daniel Inouye (posthumous), Nobel-laureate psychologist Daniel Kahneman, Sen. Richard Lugar, Country singer Loretta Lynn, Nobel-laureate environmental scientist Mario Molina, Cuban-born jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, UNC basketball coach Dean Smith, feminist author Gloria Steinem, civil right leader Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian, Judge Patricia Wald … and Oprah.

Lindoro Almaviva

August 8th, 2013

And the anti gay camp has a collective heart attack in 10, 9, 8, 7…

james

August 9th, 2013

Oprah who? You left off her last name. Did you mean to do that?

Victor

August 11th, 2013

The only commemoration of Bayard Rustin’s life in the United States is part of Chicago’s Legacy Walk… http://www.legacyprojectchicago.org/Bayard_Rustin_Plaque_Image.html

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