Bill and Melinda Gates, co-founders of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, have been chosen as two of the 21 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the White House announced in a news release yesterday (via GeekWire). The medal is the nation’s highest civilian honor and is awarded to "individuals 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," said the news release.
Other recipients include celebrities Robert de Niro, Tom Hanks, Diana Ross, Bruce Springsteen and Michael Jordan as well as some less-known personalities such as computer scientists Margaret Hamilton
and Grace Hopper (posthumous). In the news release, the White House acknowledged the scale of the philanthropic efforts made by the largest private foundation in the world over 16 years:
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.
In the statement published on Twitter yesterday, Bill and Melinda Gates said that they were "deeply humbled" to receive the medal, without forgetting to thank their dedicated staff and partners. "We accept the medal of freedom in their honor and on their behalf," they added.
— Gates Foundation (@gatesfoundation) November 16, 2016
The awards will be presented at the White House on November 22nd and the event will be live streamed on the White House website.