Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Medals of Freedom to Dolores Huerta and Gordon Hirabayashi

Civil rights activist and United Farm Workers of America co-founder Dolores Huerta will receive the nation's highest civilian honor when she is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom later this spring, the White House announced Thursday.

Huerta co-founded the UFW with the late César Chávez in 1962. She has been a community activist and political organizer, championing the rights of migrant workers, latinos, women, and the gay and lesbian community.

Huerta was instrumental in the passage of California's Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975 and disability insurance for that state's farmworkers. In 2002, Huerta founded the Dolores Huerta Foundation with a mission of developing community organizers and national leaders, the White House said.

The late Gordon Hirabayashi, who as a University of Washington student resisted the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II, will also be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Hirabayashi turned himself into the FBI, was convicted in U.S. District Court of defying the exclusion order, took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court and lost.  Forty-four years later, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his conviction.

“The U.S. government admitted it made a mistake,” Hirabayashi said in 2000.  “A country that can do this is a strong country.  I have more faith and allegiance to the Constitution than I ever had before.”

Hirabayashi died this past January.

Huerta and Hirabayashi will receive the Medal of Freedom with 12 others, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Israeli President Shimon Peres, Bob Dylan, former astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn, Pulitizer-Prize winning author Toni Morrison, and former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

Read more here and here.

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