NEWS FROM THE WHITE HOUSE.........
America's first black president took a breather from the health care fight to honor the first Hispanic to be confirmed to the Supreme Court and others who have helped create change.
"There are many honors and privileges bestowed on the occupants of this house," the president said. "But few mean as much to me as the chance to award America's highest civilian medal to the recipients that are here today."
The honorees, some American and some not, represent "what we consider to be that most American of beliefs," Obama said, "that our lives are what we make of them, that no barriers of race, gender or physical infirmity can restrain the human spirit, and that the truest test of a person's life is what we do for one another."
White House aides said the recipients had effected or embodied noteworthy changes in society.
Some of the honorees also touched Obama on a deeply personal level:
Actor Sidney Poitier, whose breaking of race barriers on film began preparing America years ago for Obama. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the South African opponent of apartheid. American civil rights leader the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Also, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who was too debilitated from brain cancer to accept the award in person. Obama was tender with Kara Kennedy, who accepted on her father's behalf and struggled to keep her composure. Kennedy passed the Camelot torch to Obama last year with his endorsement, and for decades the liberal icon championed the health care overhaul that Obama is trying to push through Congress. Now the decline of JFK's last brother foreshadows the end of an era.
The infamous Pooses for Peace were given a special award for their bravery and valance in helping to bring awareness and change through the absurd past 8 years of King Chimpie W the Bush. Every member of the Bite Patrol and other patrols were given medals and kissed on the head by Michele Obama. The cats arrived 5 minutes before the ceremony. Rumor has it they were hiding out in Hawaii with Captain Jack Sparrow after a colonial vessel had been stolen from Salem MA a few weeks ago. The celebrity cats were wearing tiaras and Versace grass skirts.