Hear Vin Scully Get The News He Just Won The Presidential Medal Of Freedom
President Barack Obama has named the 21 recipients of this year's Presidential Medal of Freedom, and among them are two notable Los Angeles sports icons: Kareem Adbul-Jabbar and Vin Scully."The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation's highest civilian honor—it's a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better," Obama said in a statement. "From scientists, philanthropists, and public servants to activists, athletes, and artists, these 21 individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way."
Vin Scully just wrapped up his 67-season career as the voice of the Dodgers, and along the way has amassed an impressive trophy collection including the National Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award (the Hall of Fame's highest honor for broadcasters) and a Lifetime Achievement Emmy. He's also been inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame, and even has a street named in his honor. Being honored by the President of the United States, certainly, would be a good way to cap off his career.
Check out the surprise phone call Scully got from White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest that broke the news. "Are you sure? I'm just an old baseball announcer," he sweetly replies:
While a sports broadcaster might not seem like a person worthy of such an honor, it's impossible to overstate his place in American society. Scully is a link to the past and a voice shared by multiple generations. He was the man who introduced baseball to Los Angeles when the Dodgers moved here in 1958, and was the narrator to some of the most thrilling moments in sports, as well as some of the most historic. Behold, his call of Hank Aaron's 715th home run, passing Babe Ruth:
What a marvelous moment for baseball, what a marvelous moment for Atlanta, and the state of Georgia, what a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol.
Yeah, I'd say he's worthy of the medal.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scores over Patrick Ewing in 1989. (Photo by James Ruebsamen from the Herald-Examiner Collection via the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection)
Kareem Adbul-Jabbar has also dignified himself beyond of the realm of sports. The former UCLA Bruin has been an advocate for social justice throughout his career. In 1968, while he was still at UCLA, he refused to try out for the Olympic team to protest the United States' treatment of African-Americans (that same Olympics was the one where Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised a Black Power fist on the medal podium). In more recent years, he has used the written word to speak out about race, religion (he converted to Islam in 1968), the exploitation of college athletes, and to call out a certain President-elect. Oh, and on top of all that he's the NBA's all-time leading scorer and a six-time champion.Here's the rest of the honorees, in alphabetical order: Elouise Cobell (Native American activist), Ellen DeGeneres (TV personality and LGBT advocate who came out as a lesbian in 1997), Robert De Niro (one of the greatest American actors of his generation), Richard Garwin (physicist who designed the first hydrogen bomb), Bill and Melinda Gates (philanthropists), Frank Gehry (architect whose credits include downtown L.A.'s Walt Disney Concert Hall), Margaret H. Hamilton (NASA scientist who designed the software on the Apollo spacecraft), Tom Hanks (America's dad), Grace Hopper (pioneering computer programmer and naval officer), Michael Jordan (former Birmingham Barons player, Space Jam star), Maya Lin (artist who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial), Lorne Michaels (Saturday Night Live creator), Newt Minow (former FCC chair who helped create the Public Broadcasting Service), Eduardo Padrón (president of Miami Dade College who has been an advocate for inclusion in education), Robert Redford (actor, environmentalist), Diana Ross (one of the greatest singers ever), Bruce Springsteen (The Boss), Cicely Tyson (actress).
With President-elect Donald Trump presumably honoring people with the medal for (hopefully no more than) the next four years, we wonder whether a) who he'll honor and b) whether some of these honorees will decline the opportunity to receive the award from him.
The awards will be presented at the White House on November 22, and will be streamed live at www.whitehouse.gov/live.