WASHINGTON, DC.- President Barack Obama presented the 2009 National Humanities Medals to eight Americans for their outstanding achievements in history, literature, cultural philanthropy, and museum leadership. Medals were given to historians Robert A. Caro, Annette Gordon-Reed, David Levering Lewis, and William H. McNeill; museum director Philippe de Montebello; philanthropist Albert H. Small; author Theodore C. Sorensen; and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel.
The National Humanities Medal honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nations understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizens engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans access to important resources in the humanities.
The official citations honoring the medalists are:
Robert A. Caro for capturing the subtle machinations of political influence in America. His biographies of Robert Moses and President Lyndon Johnson have shown us how individuals accumulate and exercise power in local and national settings.
Annette Gordon-Reed for her important and innovative research on Thomas Jeffersons slaves and the life of Sally Hemings, and for bringing to light a previously unrecognized chapter in the American story.
David Levering Lewis for his insightful examinations of W. E. B. Du Bois, the Dreyfus Affair, and early Islamic-Christians relations in Europe, which have enriched our understanding of the figures and forces that shaped world history.
William H. McNeill for his pedagogy at the University of Chicago and as an author of more than twenty books, including The Rise of the West, which traces civilizations through 5,000 years of recorded history.
Philippe de Montebello for his vision in bringing great art to an international public and his leadership in revitalizing the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and for fostering arts appreciation among people of all ages.
Albert H. Small for his devotion to sharing early American manuscripts with our Nations cultural and educational institutions, as a philanthropist and collector. His generosity has helped educate countless Americans about those who founded our country.
Theodore C. Sorensen for advancing our understanding of modern American politics. As a speechwriter and adviser to President Kennedy, he helped craft messages and policies, and later gave us a window into the people and events that made history.
Elie Wiesel for his unwavering commitment to preserving the memory of the Holocaust and its victims. He has fostered compassion and understanding through his writing, his leadership, and his relentless advocacy for human rights.
Three of the medalistsRobert A. Caro, Annette Gordon-Reed, and David Levering Lewishave also received the Pulitzer Prize for their work. Elie Wiesel received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.
The medals, first awarded as the Charles Frankel Prize in 1989, were presented during a ceremony in the East Wing of the White House. After the ceremony, the medalists and their families and friends joined the President and First Lady Michelle Obama for a reception in their honor.
Since 1996, when the first National Humanities Medal was given, 115 individuals have been honored, inclusive of this years awardees. Nine organizations also received medals. Previous medalists include Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, novelist John Updike, sociologist Robert Coles, and filmmaker Steven Spielberg.