At the ceremony, President Obama said of Dylan, "There is not a bigger giant in the history of American music," adding that the "unique gravel-y power" of his voice helped redefine "not just what music sounded like, but the message it carried and how it made people feel."
When the White House announced that Dylan would be one of this year's recipients, they wrote in a statement that the rock & roll pioneer had "considerable influence on the civil rights movement of the 1960s and has had significant impact on American culture over the past five decades." In 2009, Dylan was awarded the National Medal of Arts.
The Medal of Freedom is awarded each year to individuals who have contributed to the security or national interest of the U.S., world peace or to "cultural and other significant endeavors," according to the White House. Among the other recipients President Obama honored today were former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, Israeli President Shimon Peres, author Toni Morrison, civil rights campaigner and National Farm Workers Association co-founder Dolores Huerta and astronaut John Glenn.