Today (May 29, 2012), Bob Dylan received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for his contribution to the civil rights movement, which is the highest honor a civilian can receive. Dylan and 12 other recipients were presented their medals directly from President Obama. In reference to the nominees, the President said, “They’ve moved us with their words; they have inspired us with their actions. They’ve enriched our lives and they’ve changed our lives for the better.”
In speaking specifically about Bob Dylan, President Obama said, ”Bob Dylan started out singing other people’s songs. But, as he says, ‘There came a point where I had to write what I wanted to say, because what I wanted to say, nobody else was writing.’ So born in Hibbing, Minnesota — a town, he says, where ‘you couldn’t be a rebel — it was too cold’ — Bob moved to New York at age 19. By the time he was 23, Bob’s voice, with its weight, its unique, gravelly power was redefining not just what music sounded like, but the message it carried and how it made people feel. 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.
During the moment when Dylan was receiving his award, a military aide said, “A modern-day troubadour, Bob Dylan established himself as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. The rich poetry of his lyrics opened up new possibilities for popular song and inspired generations. His melodies have brought ancient traditions into the modern age. More than 50 years after his career began, Bob Dylan remains an eminent voice in our national conversation and around the world.
In 2009 Bob Dylan also received the National Medal of Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1997 he received the Kennedy Center Honors. Currently, Dylan recently completed a tour of South and Central America and is gearing up for his Summer tour, beginning in Berlin, Germany on July 2, 2012.
View the video of Bob receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom