Outgoing President Barack Obama today names Bill Gates as one of the 21 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
The medal has previously been awarded to such luminaries as Mother Teresa and Stephen Hawking and was awarded for Bill Gates’s charitable work after he exited Microsoft in 2008. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation aims to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, the foundation focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, the mission is to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. The Gates Foundation has provided more than $36 billion in grants since its inception.
President Obama said, “The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation’s highest civilian honor – 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. 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.”
One of the founders of Microsoft in 1975, Gates stepped down as chief executive officer of Microsoft in January 2000. He remained as chairman and chief software architect until 2006, when he transitioning from full-time work at Microsoft to part-time work, and full-time work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. His last full-time day at Microsoft was June 27, 2008 and he stepped down as chairman of Microsoft in February 2014, taking on a new post as technology adviser to support newly appointed CEO Satya Nadella.