Gloria Estefan, Emilio Estefan, Barbra Streisand, and Stephen Sondheim will receive 2015 Presidential Medals of Freedom.
Gloria Estefan, Emilio Estefan, Barbra Streisand, and Stephen Sondheim will receive 2015 Presidential Medals of Freedom.

President Barack Obama has named 17 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the betterment of the United States, including the realm of cultural endeavors.

"From public servants who helped us meet defining challenges of our time," said the President yesterday, "to artists who expanded our imaginations, from leaders who have made our union more perfect to athletes who have inspired millions of fans, these men and women have enriched our lives and helped define our shared experience as Americans."

Along with Broadway's Stephen Sondheim and Barbra Streisand, the honor will be presented to other cultural icons, including Gloria and Emilio Estefan, whose legacies are captured in Broadway's currently running musical On Your Feet!

Other recipients include Yogi Berra (posthumously), Bonnie Carroll, Shirley Chisholm (posthumously), Billy Frank Jr. (posthumously), Lee Hamilton, Katherine G. Johnson, Willie Mays, Barbara Mikulski, Itzhak Perlman, William Ruckelshaus, Steven Spielberg, James Taylor, and Minoru Yasui (posthumously).

The medal was established in 1945 by President Harry S. Truman as recognition of military service, and then reintroduced in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy as the civilian award it is today. Though the award is no longer limited to wartime achievements, it can be worn as such on military uniform. The award is not, however, limited to U.S. citizens and can be awarded to an individual multiple times (Ellsworth Bunker, John Kenneth Galbraith, and Colin Powell are all two-time recipients).

Sondheim, who was tapped for the award last year but was unable to attend the 2014 ceremony, will officially receive his medal on November 24 with the 2015 recipients. Before Sondheim, Irving Berlin and Meredith Willson (posthumously) won the award in recognition for their musical-theater composition accomplishments.