*Two Chicago legends, Ernie Banks and Oprah Winfrey, were honored today by another, Barack Obama, when he awarded them the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the county’s highest civilian honor.
The award goes to people who have made 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.
Winfrey, 59, topped this year’s Forbes list as the country’s most powerful celebrity for work across TV, film, publishing and philanthropy.
Obama said Winfrey had reached the pinnacle of the entertainment world and become the country’s first black female billionaire after getting the same early advice he did: Change your name.
She was told to go as “Susie,” he said.
MLB Hall of Famer Banks, 82, is still called “Mr. Cub” more than 40 years after retirement.
Obama saluted Banks’ rise from a 7-dollar-day player in the Negro Leagues to becoming the first African-American to suit up for the Cubs. He extolled his 512 home runs and exhortation, “Let’s play two.”
He said as a White Sox fan, he respected Banks’ trust that someday the Cubs “would go all the way.”
“That’s serious belief,” Obama said.
Sixteen people received the award, including former President Bill Clinton, former Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, country singer Loretta Lynn, former University of North Carolina coach Dean Smith and feminist Gloria Steinem.
Awards were given posthumously to the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and Sally Ride, the first female astronaut to travel to space.