President Barack Obama announced 17 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Monday. The list includes several prominent Hollywood leftists–including Steven Spielberg, who gave Obama an award last year.
Other prominent Obama supporters among the winners include songstress Barbara Streisand, folk rocker James Taylor, and Cuban-American musicians Gloria and Emilio Estefan.
President of both parties often grant the Medal of Freedom to celebrities, including those who have supported the incumbent politically. This year’s list is particularly political, however–especially given the appearance of a quid pro quo for Spielberg.
Spielberg gave Obama the “Ambassador for Humanity” award of the USC Shoah [Holocaust] Foundation in May 2014, praising his creation of the Atrocities Prevention Board in 2012. (Notably, the Board failed to prevent any atrocities, especially in Syria.)
Obama said in his acceptance speech: ““I have this remarkable title right now–President of the United States–and yet every day when I wake up, and I think about [the abducted] young girls in Nigeria or children caught up in the conflict in Syria–when there are times in which I want to reach out and save those kids–and having to think through what levers, what power do we have at any given moment, I think, ‘drop by drop by drop,’ that we can erode and wear down these forces that are so destructive.”
Thus far, Obama has failed to save the abducted girls in Nigeria or to stop the carnage in the Syrian civil war. Regardless, Spielberg was effusive in his praise for Obama: “He has said that as long as America can do something–be it military, economic, through moral example, or even grassroots inspiration, we will do what we can.”
Obama is returning the favor, with a medal.
San Francisco Giants Baseball great Wille Mays will be honored, as will Yogi Berra, posthumously. Other musicians will be honored, including violinist Itzhak Perlman and composer Stephen Sondheim (who was also listed among recipients last year).
Update: The New York Times reported earlier this year that Spielberg is helping Obama plan his post-presidency “narrative.”