Last night, soon-to-be former president Barack Obama (*sob*) handed out this year’s Presidential Medals of Freedom to the lucky and deserving recipients.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is “presented 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.”
The twenty-one recipients of the 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom span a multitude of different careers and backgrounds, but they all have one thing in common: they have made immeasurable contributions to our society as a whole, whether we realize it or not.
Here are this year’s honorees, and fair warning — you may get a tad choked up. Get your tissues ready.
Actor (and America’s Favorite Dad) Tom Hanks was awarded for his influential work in film, as well as his off-screen work as an advocate for social and environmental justice.
Degeneres was recognized for her incredible comedy career, for being a notable LGBT icon, and for standing as a constant national symbol of “equality and fairness.”
Jabbar’s legendary basketball career (six-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a 19-time NBA All-Star), combined with his advocation for social justice, garnered the former NBA player a Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Renowned architect Frank Gehry was awarded for his groundbreaking work in architectural design, which includes the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the Dancing House in Prague, and the Guggenheim Museum building in Bilbao, Spain.
Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro was recognized for his impressive career in film, which includes seven Academy Award nominations, two Oscar wins, and being a Kennedy Center honoree.
Jordan was recognized for his mind-blowing career in the NBA, during which time Jordan won six championships, five Most Valuable Player awards, and appeared in 14 All-Star games.
Padrón is the President of Miami Dade College, and was awarded for his work 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.”
In addition to his expansive acting career, Redford was honored for his work with the Sundance institute, which he founded in 1981, to nurture the work of independent filmmakers around the world.
Minow is a prominent attorney who served as the Supreme Court clerk and counsel to the Governor of Illinois, and was selected by President Kennedy to serve as Chairman of the Federal Communications Committee in 1961. He was recognized last night for playing a role in shaping “the future of American television” while at the FCC, as well as for maintaining such a lengthy career in law.
Prominent artist and designer Maya Lin was honored for her important work, which includes designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C..
Springsteen was recognized for his prominent singing and songwriting career, which “challenged us to realize the American dream.”
Scully was awarded for his 67-season broadcast career as the voice of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. He helped to capture multiple historical moments in baseball, which include 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.
Margaret H. Hamilton
Hamilton was honored for her career in computer science, which includes helming the team that was responsible for creating the on-board flight software for NASA’s Apollo command modules and lunar modules.
Bill and Melinda Gates
Bill and Melinda Gates were recognized for their work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which “focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty.”
Physicist Richard Garwin was awarded for his “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 holds 47 U.S. patents and has written 500 technical papers.
Actress Cicely Tyson was honored for her influential work in stage, film, and television. She has won two Emmy awards and a Tony award.
Lorne Michaels was recognized for his work as the creator and producer of Saturday Night Live, which has been on the air for over 40 years. His producing credits also include The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and 30 Rock.
Ross was honored for her career in the music industry, which spans over 50 years. She has been nominated for an Academy Award, was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys.
Elouise Cobell (Posthumous)
Cobell was recognized for her work as a “Blackfeet Tribal community leader and an advocate for Native American self-determination and financial independence.” She helped to win a historic lawsuit which returned tribal land to the Blackfeet Nation, and she served as the director of the Native American Community Development Corporation
Grace Hopper (Posthumous)
Rear Admiral Grace Hopper was recognized for her groundbreaking career in the field of computer programming. Her work helped to “make coding languages more practical and accessible, and she created the first compiler, which translates source code from one language into another.” She was an associate professor of mathematics at Vassar before joining the United States Naval Reserve as a lieutenant during World War II.
Related-ish: 5 People Who Made Us Say “Hell Yes” This Week