Barack Obama honours his personal heroes with presidential medal The White House played host to a roll call of Barack Obama's heroes and heroines this week as the US leader invested the first 16 recipients with his presidential medal of freedom, the country's highest civil honour.

One of the most striking members of the group - which included a veteran of the civil rights movement, a tennis player who advocated gay rights and British scientist Stephen Hawking - was the last living High Plains Indian war chief, Joseph Medicine Crow.

A historian and champion of American Indian culture, and now in his 90s, he wore a feathered head-dress which made it a little difficult for Mr Obama to place the medal round his neck.

The president told the audience of several hundred how Joseph, whose grandfather had been a scout with General Custer at the battle of Little Big Horn, had been a warrior, fighting in WWII with war paint under his uniform and a feather under his helmet.

He also had special words of praise for cosmologist Stephen, about whom he said: "from his wheelchair has led us on a journey to the farthest and strangest reaches of the cosmos."

Mr Obama continued: "In so doing, he has stirred our imagination and shown us the power of the human spirit here on earth."

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