Medals are presented to individuals who have contributed to "the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors," according to the White House. Springsteen's contributions were described as being intrinsic to defining American values: "The stories he has told, in lyrics and epic live concert performances, have helped shape American music and have challenged us to realize the American dream."
The 2016 recipients included Tom Hanks, Michael Jordan, Ellen DeGeneres, Robert De Niro, Bill and Melinda Gates, Lorne Michaels, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Emmy and Tony Award-winner Cicely Tyson and more.
President Obama personally selects the recipients. "It's a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better," Obama said in a statement. "From scientists, philanthropists, and public servants to activists, athletes, and artists, these 21 individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way."