I Would Have Paid a Week’s Wages to be in the Same Room…


The recipients of this year’s Presidential Medal of Freedom included some of the people I most admire (Bruce Springsteen, Bill Gates, Micheal Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Ellen DeGeneres, Tom Hanks, and the late Grace Hopper), and not to mention the emcee, Barack Obama. To think of them all being in the same place, along with many other highly accomplished individuals, is mind boggling.

I would have gladly paid up to a week’s wages for the opportunity to have been in the same room as all of these outstanding citizens, and to briefly thank them for their significant contributions to our great country (yes, America is already great). Such an opportunity would have been inspirational and likely life-changing.

Since I wasn’t there, the next best thing was to watch the ceremony, which appears below. After that video, I have included a classic version of the mannequin challenge that took place during the event.

If you would like to go directly to hear about a particular individual, here are links to when each tribute begins. The first time stamp represents the words offered by President Obama on behalf of each recipient, and the second time stamp is the time of the actual awarding of the medal, along with a brief overview of that person’s accomplishments. Thank you to YouTube user Nathan Savage for these time links (clicking on the link brings you directly to that part of the YouTube video).

1:27: Bill and Melinda Gates (Medal Award 38:40)
2:52 Frank Gehry (Medal Award 40:06)
4:05 Maya Lin (Medal Award 46:27)
5:11 Margaret Hamilton (Medal Award 41:22)
6:20 Rear Admiral Grace Hopper (Medal Award 43:50)
7:40 Richard Garwin (Medal Award 37:30)
9:05 Cicely Tyson (Medal Award 56:20)
10:08 Robert De Niro (Medal Award 36:18)
11:26 Lorne Michaels (Medal Award 47:36)
13:17 Ellen Degeneres (Medal Award 34:58)
15:25 Robert Redford (Medal Award 51:05)
16:53 Tom Hanks (Medal Award 42:37)
18:20 Dr. Eduardo J. Padrón (Medal Award 50:00)
19:27 Elouise Cobell (Medal Award 33:39)
20:38 Newton N. Minow (Medal Award 48:40)
22:00 Vin Scully (Medal Award 53:40)
23:40 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Medal Award 32:15)
25:30 Michael Jordan 1(Medal Award 45:00)
27:30 Diana Ross (Medal Award 52:10)
28:38 Bruce Springsteen (Medal Award 55:00)

Here is the classic Mannequin video, filmed byDiana Ross’ daughter Tracee Ellis Ross, that I mentioned earlier:

If you would like to read a little bit more about these recipients, here is the list and brief bios of the 21 Medal winners, courtesy of whitehouse.gov I must admit I was not familiar with a few of the recipients, but reading their bio makes it apparent why they were selected for such an honor.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the National Basketball Association’s all-time leading scorer who helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers to five championships and the Milwaukee Bucks to another. During his career, Abdul-Jabbar was a six-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a 19-time NBA All-Star. Before joining the NBA, he was a star player at UCLA, leading the Bruins to three consecutive championships. In addition to his legendary basketball career, Abdul-Jabbar has been an outspoken advocate for social justice.

Elouise Cobell (posthumous)

Elouise Cobell was a Blackfeet Tribal community leader and an advocate for Native American self-determination and financial independence.  She used her expertise in accounting to champion a lawsuit that resulted in a historic settlement, restoring tribal homelands to her beloved Blackfeet Nation and many other tribes, and in so doing, inspired a new generation of Native Americans to fight for the rights of others.  Cobell helped found the Native American Bank, served as director of the Native American Community Development Corporation, and inspired Native American women to seek leadership roles in their communities.

Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen DeGeneres is an award-winning comedian who has hosted her popular daytime talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, since 2003 with her trademarked humor, humility, and optimism. In 2003 Ellen lent her voice to a forgetful but unforgettable little fish named Dory in Finding Nemo. She reprised her role again in 2016 with the hugely successful Finding Dory. Ellen also hosted the Academy Awards twice, in 2007 and 2014. In 1997, after coming out herself, DeGeneres made TV history when her character on Ellen revealed she was a lesbian. In her work and in her life, she has been a passionate advocate for equality and fairness.

Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro has brought to life some of the most memorable roles in American film during a career that spans five decades. His first major film roles were in the sports drama Bang the Drum Slowlyand Martin Scorsese’s crime film Mean Streets.  He is a seven-time Academy Award nominee and two-time Oscar winner, and is also a Kennedy Center honoree.

Richard Garwin

Richard Garwin is a polymath physicist who earned a Ph.D. under Enrico Fermi at age 21 and subsequently made pioneering contributions to U.S. defense and intelligence technologies, low-temperature and nuclear physics, detection of gravitational radiation, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computer systems, laser printing, and nuclear arms control and nonproliferation. He directed Applied Research at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center and taught at the University of Chicago, Columbia University, and Harvard University. The author of 500 technical papers and a winner of the National Medal of Science, Garwin holds 47 U.S. patents, and has advised numerous administrations.

Bill and Melinda Gates

Bill and Melinda Gates established the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000 to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, the foundation focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, the mission is to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. The Gates Foundation has provided more than $36 billion in grants since its inception.

Frank Gehry

Frank Gehry is one of the world’s leading architects, whose works have helped define contemporary architecture. His best-known buildings include the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the Dancing House in Prague, and the Guggenheim Museum building in Bilbao, Spain.

Margaret H. Hamilton

Margaret H. Hamilton led the team that created the on-board flight software for NASA’s Apollo command modules and lunar modules. A mathematician and computer scientist who started her own software company, Hamilton contributed to concepts of asynchronous software, priority scheduling and priority displays, and human-in-the-loop decision capability, which set the foundation for modern, ultra-reliable software design and engineering.

Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks is one of the Nation’s finest actors and filmmakers. He has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role five times, and received the award for his work in Philadelphia and Forrest Gump.  Those roles and countless others, including in Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan, and Cast Away, have left an indelible mark on American film. Off screen, as an advocate, Hanks has advocated for social and environmental justice, and for our veterans and their families.

Grace Hopper (posthumous)

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, known as “Amazing Grace” and “the first lady of software,” was at the forefront of computers and programming development from the 1940s through the 1980s. Hopper’s work helped make coding languages more practical and accessible, and she created the first compiler, which translates source code from one language into another.  She taught mathematics as an associate professor at Vassar College before joining the United States Naval Reserve as a lieutenant (junior grade) during World War II, where she became one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer and began her lifelong leadership role in the field of computer science.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan is one of the greatest athletes of all time. Jordan played 15 seasons in the NBA for the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards; he is currently a principal owner and chairman of the Charlotte Hornets.  During his career, he won six championships, five Most Valuable Player awards, and appeared in 14 All-Star games.

Maya Lin

Maya Lin is an artist and designer who is known for her work in sculpture and landscape art. She designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. and since then has pursued a celebrated career in both art and architecture.  A committed environmentalist, Lin is currently working on a multi-sited artwork/memorial, What is Missing? bringing awareness to the planet’s loss of habitat and biodiversity.

Lorne Michaels

Lorne Michaels is a producer and screenwriter, best known for creating and producing Saturday Night Live, which has run continuously for more than 40 years. In addition, Michaels has also produced The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and 30 Rock, among other popular, award-winning shows. He has won 13 Emmy Awards over the course of his lengthy career.

Newt Minow

Newt Minow is an attorney with a long and distinguished career in public life. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, Minow served as a Supreme Court clerk and counsel to the Governor of Illinois. In 1961, President Kennedy selected Minow, then 34, to serve as Chairman of the Federal Communications Committee (FCC), where he helped shape the future of American television and was a vigorous advocate for broadcasting that promoted the public interest. In the five decades since leaving the FCC, Minow has maintained a prominent private law practice while devoting himself to numerous public and charitable causes.

Eduardo Padrón

Eduardo Padrón is the President of Miami Dade College (MDC), one of the largest institutions of higher education in the United States. During his more than four decade career, President Padrón has been a national voice for access and inclusion. He has worked to ensure all students have access to high quality, affordable education. He has championed innovative teaching and learning strategies making MDC a national model of excellence.

Robert Redford

Robert Redford is an actor, director, producer, businessman, and environmentalist. In 1981, he founded the Sundance Institute to advance the work of independent filmmakers and storytellers throughout the world, including through its annual Sundance Film Festival. He has received an Academy Award for Best Director and for Lifetime Achievement.  Redford has directed or starred in numerous motion pictures, including The Candidate, All the President’s Men, Quiz Show, and A River Runs Through It.

Diana Ross

Diana Ross has had an iconic career spanning more than 50 years within the entertainment industry in music, film, television, theater, and fashion. Diana Ross is an Academy Award nominee, inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and recipient of the Grammy Awards highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award. Ross was a recipient of the 2007 Kennedy Center Honors.  Diana Ross’s greatest legacy is her five wonderful children.

Vin Scully

Vin Scully is a broadcaster who, for 67 seasons, was the voice of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers.  In Southern California, where generations of fans have grown up listening to Dodger baseball, Scully’s voice is known as the “soundtrack to summer.”  In 1988, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  Scully’s signature voice brought to life key moments in baseball history, including perfect games by Sandy Koufax and Don Larsen, Kirk Gibson’s home run in the 1988 World Series, and Hank Aaron’s record-breaking 715th home run.

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen is a singer, songwriter, and bandleader.  More than five decades ago, he bought a guitar and learned how to make it talk.  Since then, the stories he has told, in lyrics and epic live concert performances, have helped shape American music and have challenged us to realize the American dream.  Springsteen is a Kennedy Center honoree and he and the E Street Band he leads have each been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Cicely Tyson

Cicely Tyson has performed on the stage, on television, and on the silver screen.  She has won two Emmy Awards and a Tony Award, and is known for her performances in Sounder, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, and The Help.  In 2013, she returned to the stage with The Trip to the Bountiful, and was awarded the Tony Award for best leading actress.  Tyson received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2015.

Congratulations to all the recipients, and thank you once again for the contributions you have made; I wish all of you continued success.


Published by

Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

2 thoughts on “I Would Have Paid a Week’s Wages to be in the Same Room…”

  1. Dr. Borden, I respectfully disagree with you on Bill Gates. He has caused more job loss and underemployment than many people can think of, only being surpassed by US Corporations and Federal and State gov’ts combined. He made a massive fortune developing products that completely revolutionized the world that we’ve come to depend on in our every day lives. And that’s where the second wave hits: Microsoft products are among the most unstable on the earth, completely lacking uniformity and reliability, constantly crashing or screwing up PCs. My business is, literally, shut down approx. 5 business days a year do to Microsoft problems – completely avoidable. When my business is shut down, I do not make sales and I don’t get them back the next week. My paycheck gets smaller that week or worse yet, stops. Mr. Gates amassed, as did others, Billions of US dollars doing this and then sits back and acts like a good guy helping the world with his foundation, built on the back of the 10’s of thousands of unemployed and underemployed people he created. Did you ever hear the scam he perpetrated upon the people of Rotary International? Probably not. In the mid 2000s he approached Rotary International and said (I’m paraphrasing) “My foundation will eradicate polio worldwide in the next year if you get your people to give me $1MM and my foundation will throw in $1MM. I’ll trust you to get $1MM from your members so here is my foundation’s $1MM. So Rotary International turned to it’s members, me included, and many of my friends and neighbors, and sold us on the story and then said: (paraphrasing again) “Cough up $1MM), which we did. Then 1 year later polio was not eradicated. And Bill Gates worked out, again, a secret deal with Rotary International, and said (paraphrasing): “Tell you what. I’ll give you $2MM if you go back and ask your members for yet ANOTHER $1MM (might have been $2MM)”. He never said “Sorry, I made a mistake”; sorry, never said “I was wrong”; or “Sorry, I screwed up and what I told you I would do I did not do”. Nothing. Crickets. Chirp. Chirp. Chirp. And then Rotary International, in it’s infinite wisdom, with no apology or excuse nor collaboration from it’s members, turned back to us AGAIN, and asked for yet another $1MM (might have been $2MM). No apology. No explanation. That’s when I left Rotary. Most people do NOT know this because it is not reported on and no surprisingly, the Gates Foundation nor Rotary International put this scheme on their websites. Many people struggled and worked hard to cough up those millions. The scheme was not without creating hardship on hard working, good people. I wanted you to know.


  2. Hi Chase, thank you for your detailed comments. I guess this is something we have to agree to disagree about. I think Bill Gates is one of our modern day heroes, and that Microsoft is one of our great companies. At the same time I recognize that no one, or no company, is perfect, but when I look at the overall picture I think both Bill and Microsoft have made the world a better place.



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