Exclusive Video: Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients In Their Own Words

"This year’s Medal of Freedom recipients reveal the best of who we are and who we aspire to be," President Obama said at the ceremony to award the Nation’s highest civilian honor. He described the occasion as "one of the things that I most look forward to every year. It’s a chance to meet with -- and, more importantly, honor -- some of the most extraordinary people in America -- and around the world."

Watch the Video

Honorees sat down with our cameras to reflect on this momentous day and share their stories of inspiration, their best advice for young people and their ideas on how all Americans can give back. Now, you're invited to meet some of the extraordinary men and women that have inspired us, enriched our culture, and made our country and our world a better place.

Watch exclusive interviews with the 2010 Medal of Freedom recipients and the award ceremony.

“There wasn’t any single inspiration other than the concept that public service is a noble calling - worth doing and worth trying to succeed in.” – President George H.W. Bush

"See the future as your career, as your job. This is not a rehearsal. This is your life." – Dr. Maya Angelou

“I was extremely lucky in that the two most important people to me in my life, my dad and my wife… they both extended to me unconditional love. And there’s no power on earth in my view like unconditional love.” – Warren E. Buffett

“I think survival is an incredible privilege and with it comes a very deep obligation to speak about those who never had a chance, who never held a child in their arms.”  – Gerda Weissmann Klein

“I think the more we bring passion into our workforce, into our lives, into our citizenry, the better our country is.” – Yo-Yo Ma

President Barack Obama addresses the audience before presenting the Medal of Freedom

President Barack Obama addresses the audience before presenting the Medal of Freedom during a ceremony East Room of the White House February 15, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

“Stand up for nature, believe that nature is important. Whatever job you’re in - whether it’s law, science or business – make sure that you remember that nature is very important to protect.” – John H. Adams

“People must have the desire to get out there, to push and pull, and to never give up, to never get lost in a sea of despair, but to keep the faith.” – Congressman John Lewis

“What inspired me was that my parents fought for me when I was very young. What they did was they wanted me to know that I was an individual, that we’re all individuals, that we’re all human beings, and that we’re all connected together.” – Sylvia Mendez

“I think that Americans are outstanding in the way they contribute and volunteer and the way they do help each other. I’ve never seen a country like it and it’s something to be proud of.” – Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith

“Our success is really the success of workers. Whether they’re organized or unorganized, how do you improve their lives and what contributions can you make to all of that?” – John J. Sweeney

“My father always said ‘I don’t know what you’re going to do when you grow up, but don’t do it if you can’t do it right. Be the best you can at whatever you do.’” – William F. Russell

“Even though we were passionate about what we were doing, eye care, ophthalmic care in Afghanistan, we really did feel it a privilege to be citizens of this country.” – Libby Little on behalf of Dr. Thomas Emmett Little

“It’s a great honor receiving the President’s Medal of Honor and it’s the best gift I’ve ever received in my lifetime.” – Stanley F. Musial

President Barack Obama awards the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Dr. Maya Angelou

President Barack Obama awards the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Dr. Maya Angelou in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House February 15, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Barack Obama awards the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom to John Lewis

President Barack Obama awards the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Congressman John Lewis in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House February 15, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Barack Obama awards the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom to John Lewis

President Barack Obama awards the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Congressman John Lewis in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House. First Lady Michelle Obama applauds at left February 15, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama awards the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Stan Musial

President Barack Obama awards the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Stan Musial in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House February 15, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama awards the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Libby Little

President Barack Obama hugs Libby Little after presenting the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously to her husband, Dr. Tom Little, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House February 15, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama awards the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Bill Russell

President Barack Obama reaches over the shoulders of 6'9" Bill Russell to present him with the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House February 15, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Barack Obama awards the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Former President George H. W. Bush

Former President George H. W. Bush reads the inscription on the back after being presented with the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House February 15, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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