Bill and Melinda Gates honored with Presidential Medal of Freedom

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President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 21 recipients today.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded to American citizens who have "made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

Three of the award winners have ties to the technology industry, including:

  • Bill and Melinda Gates. In 2000, the couple created the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve the health of people in other countries and give U.S. citizens access to the opportunities they need to succeed. The foundation has provided more than $36 billion in grants.
  • Margaret Hamilton. A mathematician and computer scientist, Ms. Hamilton led the team that created the on-board flight software for NASA's Apollo space program. In 1986, she founded her own software company, Hamilton Technologies, where she serves as CEO.
  • Grace Hopper, PhD. U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, who was responsible for developing the first compiler used for computer programming language, was also one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer. The award is given posthumously as she died in 1992.

Other notable recipients include Ellen DeGeneres, Tom Hanks, Michael Jordan, Robert Redford, Diana Ross and Bruce Springsteen. Click here to read the full list of recipients.

The awards will be given at the White House on Nov. 22.

"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," President Obama said.

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