Obama names Lowery, other social change agents for top medal

56544338In January, Rev. Joseph Lowery began his impassioned benediction for the inauguration of President Obama with those opening lines from the “Negro National Anthem,” Lift Every Voice and Sing.

Today, just hours before a planned picnic table chat on race with black scholar Henry Louis Gages and the white policeman who arrested him, Sgt. James Crowley, the White House announced 16 picks, including Lowery, for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It’s the top civilian honors for stellar contributors to “the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”According to the White House release, the “change” president chose them all “for their work as agents of change.” Of course, awarding the medal is also a way for a president to highlight particular values — valor, vision, selfless public service, sportsmanship and so on.

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PICTURED: The Rev. Joseph Lowery gives the benediction during the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America on the West Front of the Capitol January 20, 2009 in Washington, DC. Obama becomes the first African-American to be elected to the office of President in the history of the United States. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)