The Medal of Freedom is our country’s highest civilian honor. This week, Bill Russell was named as one of 15 recipients for 2010.

The award is presented to those who have made meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace or other significant public or private endeavors.

President Barack Obama announced the recipients Wednesday.

“These outstanding honorees come from a broad range of backgrounds and they’ve excelled in a broad range of fields, but all of them have lived extraordinary lives that have inspired us, enriched our culture, and made our country and our world a better place,” said President Obama. “I look forward to awarding them this honor next year.”

The former Celtics captain led the franchise to a remarkable 11 championships in 13 years. On a more personal level, Russell was named Most Valuable Player five times.

He continued to contribute to the sport long after his playing days were behind him. Russell was the first African-American hired to coach a major sport at the professional level in the United States.
 
Even more important than his efforts on the hardwood, Russell is a passionate advocate of human rights. He marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and  is still a renowned voice for equality.

Other recipients of the 2010 Medal of Freedom include President George H. W. Bush, Chancellor Angela Merkel, Congressman John Lewis, John H. Adams, Maya Angelou, Warren Buffett, Jasper Johns, Gerda Weissmann Klein, Dr. Tom Little (Posthumous), Yo-Yo Ma, Sylvia Mendez, Stan Musial, Jean Kennedy Smith and John J. Sweeney.