Obama presents Medal of Freedom to Bangladesh’s Muhammed Yunus


Washington : President Barack Obama has awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honour, to 16 people who have made a difference in the nation and the world.

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Among the four foreign winners was Bangladesh’s Muhammed Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, who pioneered a way to lift people out of poverty through a community banking programme that gives small loans to entrepreneurs with no collateral.

The list of recipients includes activists, scientists, actors, humanitarians and athletes. They are all agents of change, Obama said at a White House ceremony Wednesday.

“They remind us that we each have it within our power to fulfil dreams, to advance the dreams of others, and to remake the world for our children,” he said.

“With his belief in the self-reliance of all people, Professor Muhammad Yunus has altered the face of finance and entrepreneurship. As an academic, he struggled with pervading economic theories and their effects on the people of his native Bangladesh,” the White House citation said.

“Yearning for a new way of lifting people out of poverty, he revolutionised banking to allow low-income borrowers access to credit. In the process, he has enabled citizens of the world’s poorest countries to create profitable businesses, support their families and help build sustainable communities.

“In so doing, Muhammad Yunus has unleashed new avenues of creativity and inspired millions worldwide to imagine their own potential,” it said.

Retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, well known champion of human rights, world renowned physicist and author Stephen Hawking and Mary Robinson, Ireland’s first female president and a former UN high commissioner for human rights were also honoured.

The Medal of Freedom was established in 1945 to recognise civilians for their efforts during World War II. It was revived in 1963 as a way to honour individuals for distinguished service from all walks of life.