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WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – It was an afternoon celebration at the East Wing of the White House Tuesday.
Individual achievements were recognized for benefitting the common good of all Americans.
“Today we celebrate some extraordinary people: innovators, artists and leaders who contribute to America’s strength as a nation,” President Barack Obama said during Tuesday’s ceremony.
Seventeen honorees received the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the nation’s highest civilian honor.
Obama presented the medals to names and faces both familiar and not so familiar.
Among those recipients were South Florida’s very own Gloria and Emilio Estefan.
Earlier in the day, CBS4’s Lisa Petrillo walked to the White House with them minutes before the ceremony.
“What is going through your minds right now?” Petrillo asked.
“Just getting to the White House in these heels, that’s what’s going through my mind,” Gloria joked. “No, really, so much excitement. It’s such an honor and a privilege.”
And when the time came for these Cuban born superstars to receive this most prestigious award the moment was everything.
“It really is such a unique and special award. Our family was there and I saw their smiling faces and I saw your smiling face as well. It was incredible. It’s really mind-blowing. I am beside myself,” Gloria told Petrillo.
Other recipients included stars of the sports world such as Hall of Fame baseball player Willie Mays.
From the world of entertainment, award winning classical violinist and conductor Itzak Perlman.
Recording artist and songwriter James Taylor, who was humbled by his honor.
“I can think of so many people it could be aside from me but I’m deeply grateful to the president for this honor,” Taylor said.
Also awarded was Oscar-winning film maker Steven Spielberg and actress, director and singer Barbra Streisand.
“We are like sister and brother. She’s my a-little-bit-older sister,” joked Spielberg.
“He’s my little brother,” Streisand said.
“Are you having fun this evening?” Petrillo asked.
“Oh yes!” Spielberg exclaimed.
To echo the words of President Obama:
The common thread of these recipients is how they have enriched our lives and helped define our shared experience as Americans.
“I was thinking it was a big day for Miami too,” said Emilio Estefan. “Miami was the first to give us support, to believe in us. I am so proud they supported us, and 305 is in the house!”
CBS4’s Lisa Petrillo is at Tuesday night’s ceremony. Make sure to tune in for her full report at 11 p.m. on CBS4 News.