Medal design by Paul Balan, photo by Maria Biernik
On September 22, 2016, President Obama bestowed the National Humanities Medal on twelve of our finest thinkers and doers, representing an incredible variety of endeavors. A Chicano novelist who brought Southwestern magical realism into the heart of American literature. A chef-innovator who introduced the delights of Spanish cuisine to America. A poet whose verse ranges from the myths of Greece to the most personal kind of suffering. A radio interviewer who has coaxed from artists and performers the stories behind their greatest works. An essayist and cultural historian who has lit the trail of American ideas from the nineteenth century to today. A jazzman who has rekindled Americans’ romance with their own singular musical idiom. A scholar who has drawn back the curtain on the early history of Christianity. A degree-supporting educational program for convicts that helps prepare them for life after prison. A writer whose memoirs and novels shed light on the African-American experience while teaching about love that transcends race. A historian whose biographies have illuminated the history of American finance and the character of Alexander Hamilton. A celebrated physician who has returned the patient to the center of the medical enterprise and writes about the human drama in memoir and novels. A journalist and author who told the epic story of the Great Migration through the memories of the people who made the trip.