WASHINGTON — The White House announced on Wednesday this year's 15 winners of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. The medal is presented to people who have made notable contributions to U.S. interests, from cultural achievements to security matters. The winners are:
George H.W. Bush: The 41st president.
, Chancellor Angela Merkel: The first woman and first East German to serve as chancellor of a unified Germany.
Stan "The Man" Musial: The baseball Hall of Famer played 22 seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Rep. John Lewis: The Georgia Democrat served as chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and helped organize the first lunch-counter sit-in. In 1965, he led the Selma-to-Montgomery, Ala., voting rights march and was brutally beaten on "Bloody Sunday."
, Yo-Yo Ma: World renowned cellist who has won 16 Grammy awards. He played at Obama's inauguration.
Warren Buffett: The chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, known as the "Oracle of Omaha" for his prescient business sense. He is also a philanthropist.
Maya Angelou: A prominent poet, educator, filmmaker, producer and civil rights activist.
Jasper Johns: American artist whose work has dealt with themes of perception and identity. He is considered a major influence on pop, minimal and conceptual art.
Dr. Tom Little: An optometrist murdered by the Taliban in Afghanistan as he and nine others returned from a mission to provide eye care.
, Bill Russell: The former captain of the Boston Celtics and first black man to become an NBA head coach.
Sylvia Mendez: A civil rights activist of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent.
Jean Kennedy Smith: Served as U.S. ambassador to Ireland and was the founder of VSA, a nonprofit affiliated with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts that promotes the artistic talents of children and adults with disabilities.
John Sweeney: AFL-CIO president from 1995-2009.
, Gerda Weissmann Klein: Jewish Holocaust survivor who founded Citizenship Counts, an organization that teaches students to cherish the value of their American citizenship.
John H. Adams: In 1970, he co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group.