C-100 Governor and cellist Yo-Yo Ma won the nation's highest civilian honor on February 15. President Barack Obama gave Ma and 12 other exceptional people the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a ceremony held in the East Room of the White House.C-100 Governor and cellist Yo-Yo Ma won the nation's highest civilian honor on February 15. President Barack Obama gave Ma and 12 other exceptional people the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a ceremony held in the East Room of the White House.
Other 2010 Medal of Freedom winners present included President George H.W. Bush, Warren Buffet, and Maya Angelou. Ma, who played at Obama's inauguration in 2009, was celebrated as "one of our nation's most acclaimed and respected artists. His music has bound us together and captured our imagination, and the United States proudly honors this prolific cellist and ambassador for the arts."
Ma founded the Committee of 100 with I.M. Pei and several other distinguished Chinese Americans in 1989 to give Chinese Americans a strong voice in U.S.-China relations and Asian American affairs.
In presenting the award, the President said, "Yo-Yo Ma has been a concert cellist since the age of five. Despite being a late bloomer -- (laughter) -- he went on to record over 75 albums and win 16 Grammys -- which means I'm only 14 behind him. (Laughter.) While Yo-Yo could have just settled for being the world's greatest cellist, he's said that even greater than his passion for music is his passion for people. And I can testify to this. There are few people you'll meet with just the exuberance and joy that Yo-Yo possesses. And so he's spent much of his life traveling the world, training and mentoring thousands of students, from Lebanon and Korea to the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra. A member of my Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, he has been named a Messenger of Peace by the United Nations, and we understand why. In his words, 'When we enlarge our view of the world, we deepen our understanding of our own lives.'"