Bob Dylan among recipients of Medal of Freedom

President Barack Obama presents rock legend Bob Dylan with a Medal of Freedom, Tuesday, May 29, 2012, during a ceremony at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Charles Dharapak
President Barack Obama presents rock legend Bob Dylan with a Medal of Freedom on May 29, 2012, during a ceremony at the White House in Washington.

(CBS/AP) Wearing sunglasses with his suit, rock legend Bob Dylan was honored by President Barack Obama with the Medal of Freedom on Tuesday in a ceremony held at the White House.

"Bob's voice, with its weight, its unique gravely power, was redefining not just what music sounded like, but the message it carried and how it made people feel," Mr. Obama said of the musician. "Today, everybody from Bruce Springsteen to U2 owes Bob a debt of gratitude. There is not a bigger giant in the history of American music. All these years later, he's still chasing that sound, still searching for a little bit of truth, and I have to say that I am a really big fan."

Pictures: Medal of Freedom
Pictures: Bob Dylan
Pictures: John Glenn's flight
Pictures: Pat Summitt
Pictures: John Paul Stevens

Other honorees included former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, astronaut John Glenn, Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt, former Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens and author Toni Morrison.

The Medal of Freedom is America's highest civilian honor. It is presented to individuals who have made meritorious contributions to the national interests of the United States, to world peace or to other significant endeavors.

The president noted that the awards ceremony Tuesday led to a "packed house, which is testament to how cool this group is." Mr. Obama said the honorees have moved Americans with their words and inspired them with their actions.

Other recipients this year included:

  • Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts.
  • Shimon Peres, president of Israel.
  • John Doar, who handled civil rights cases as assistant attorney general in the 1960s.
  • William Foege, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who helped lead the effort to eradicate smallpox.
  • Gordon Hirabayashi, who fought the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
  • Jan Karski, a resistance fighter against the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II.
  • Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers of America.

Albright was the first woman to hold the top U.S. diplomatic job, while Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth. Summitt led the University of Tennessee women's basketball team to more NCAA Final Four appearances than any other team. And Dylan's vast catalog of songs includes such rock classics as "Like a Rolling Stone," ''Blowin' in the Wind" and "Mr. Tambourine Man."