Other recipients named for “the Nation’s highest civilian honor” include baseball legend Babe Ruth, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, GOP Senator Orrin Hatch, doctor and philanthropist Miriam Adelson (wife of billionaire Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson), judge and Pro Football Hall of Famer Alan Page.
This is the first time Trump will bestow a Medal of Freedom as president.
Presley, who died in 1977, is one of three recipients to receive the distinction posthumously, including Ruth and Scalia. He’s also one of few entertainers (even if you include the world of sports) receiving a medal this year, no doubt due to most of the entertainment industry’s rejection of Trump, his rhetoric, and politics. Many musicians also spoke out against Trump for use of their music during rallies.
“Elvis Presley defined American culture to billions of adoring fans around the world,” reads a statement from the White House. “Elvis fused gospel, country, and rhythm and blues to create a sound all his own, selling more than a billion records. Elvis also served nearly 2 years in the United States Army, humbly accepting the call to serve despite his fame. He later starred in 31 films, drew record-breaking audiences to his shows, sent television ratings soaring, and earned 14 GRAMMY Award nominations. He ultimately won 3 GRAMMY Awards for his gospel music. Elvis Presley remains an enduring American icon 4 decades after his death.”
Scalia died in 2016 during Barack Obama’s presidency, but the Republicans in power refused to let the sitting commander in chief proceed with his nomination. Trump eventually filled the seat with Neil Gorsuch after taking office.
Hatch was one of the more vocal supporters of Trump’s second Supreme Court Justice appointment, Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault. Hatch told a group of female Kavanaugh protestors during the hearings to “grow up.”
Adelson founded two research centers fighting against substance abuse, in addition to the Adelson Medical Research Foundation. Along with her husband, she is one of the largest Republican donors.
As for the athletes, Page played in the NFL for 15 years before serving as a judge. In 1988, he started the Page Education Foundation, which went on to provide scholarships to nearly 7,000 students. Staubach, another Hall of Famer, won two Super Bowls as quarterback, served during the Vietnam War, and worked with charities and businesses.
Obama awarded the most Medals of Freedom over the course of his eight-year presidency. Among the 123 medals he gave out were honors for Ellen DeGeneres, Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep, Stevie Wonder, Tom Hanks, Diana Ross, Bruce Springsteen, Cicely Tyson, Gloria Estefan, Steven Spielberg, and Barbra Streisand.