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Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey among those awarded US's highest civilian honour

The Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony was lent added poignancy as the award was first minted by John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated 50 years ago this week.

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL Clinton and broadcaster Oprah Winfrey were among those awarded with the US’s highest civilian honour in the White House today.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony was lent added poignancy as the award was first minted by John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated 50 years ago this week.

Obama said that the 16 honorees represented “what JFK understood to be the essence of the American spirit.”

Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey among those awarded US's highest civilian honour
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  • Presidential Medal of Freedom

    President Barack Obama and baseball Hall-of-Famer Ernie Banks.Source: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom

    President Barack Obama awards Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of The Washington Post, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.Source: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom

    President Barack Obama and country music legend Loretta Lynn.Source: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Gloria Steinem, co-founder of Ms. Magazine receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Source: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom

    President Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey.Source: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom

    President Barack Obama awards former President Bill Clinton. Source: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Source: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Author and civil rights activist Cordy Tindell "C.T." Vivian receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.Source: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Two US Presidents share a laugh in the White House. Source: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Source: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Former President Bill Clinton watches at left as President Barack Obama awards Oprah Winfrey with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.Source: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Source: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom

    President Barack Obama, left, kisses, Oprah Winfrey, before awarding the medal. Source: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Chemist and Nobel Prize winner Mario Molina.Source: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez

Obama said that Clinton, a fellow Democrat, proved that “you could grow the economy, lift people out of poverty,” shrink deficits and still invest in families, schools and science and technology.

Winfrey, Obama said, had built a massive following on the basis of her message “you can.”

“You can do and you can be and you can grow and it can be better. She was living proof, rising from a childhood of poverty and abuse to the pinnacle of the entertainment universe,” he said.

American legends from the worlds of politics, sports, letters, science and the arts were also honoured.

Addtional reporting by Rónán Duffy

Read: Bill Clinton retaliates with a Bono impression >

Read: Oprah to be given honorary Oscar for humanitarian work >

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