The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the US' highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the US, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors. The awards will be presented at the White House later this year.
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Kahneman, who currently teaches at Princeton University, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002. He was described by the White House as a "pioneering scholar' of psychology. "After escaping Nazi occupation in World War II, Dr. Kahneman immigrated to Israel, where he served in the Israel Defense Forces and trained as a psychologist. Alongside Amos Tversky, he applied cognitive psychology to economic analysis, laying the foundation for a new field of research," the White House said.
Speaking to Ynet, Kahneman said: "This is a great honor. I am completely surprised. It is a medal that only very few civilians, who are not presidents, receive. The chance of receiving such an honor is the same as being struck by lightning."
He added that the idea behind this medal, in his opinion, is "American" in its democratic spirit. "The idea is that there are several ways to contribute to democracy."
President Obama said, “The Presidential Medal of Freedom goes to men and women who have dedicated their own lives to enriching ours. This year's honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world. It will be my honor to present them with a token of our nation's gratitude."
Other recipients include Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Ben Bradlee.
Clinton, president from 1993-2001, was cited for his work at the Clinton Foundation and its global effort to promote health and strengthen economies.
Winfrey, best known for creating the "Oprah Winfrey Show," the highly rated talk show, is also an actress who starred in the "Color Purple."
Bradlee was editor of The Washington Post during the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon in the 1970s. The Post was in the news this week when Amazon's Jeff Bezos purchased the struggling newspaper.
Others on the list included baseball player Ernie Banks, country singer Loretta Lynn, former Indiana Republican Senator Richard Lugar, the late Hawaii Democratic Senator Daniel Inouye, former North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith, feminist Glorida Steinem, civil rights leader Cordy Tindell "C.T." Vivian, jazz artist Arturo Sandoval, chemist Mario Molina and the late astronaut Sally K. Ride.
Itay Blumenthal contributed to the report
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