Obama Awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to Purpose Prize Fellow

At a recent White House ceremony, Purpose Prize fellow Dolores Huerta became one of only 13 people – including such big names as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former astronaut John Glenn and musician Bob Dylan – to receive the 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The medal is the nation’s highest civilian honor. “What sets these men and women apart is the incredible impact they have had on so many people – not in short blinding bursts, but steadily in the course of a lifetime,” Obama said at the ceremony.

Obama recognized Huerta as an advocate for workers and civil rights. In 1962 she co-founded the National Farmworkers Association (now the United Farm Workers of America) with prominent labor and civil rights leader Cesar Chavez. “Without any negotiating experience, Delores helped lead a world grape boycott that forced growers to agree to some of the country’s first farm worker contracts,” Obama said about Huerta, a former elementary school teacher. “And ever since she has fought to give more people a seat at the table.”

Huerta has also long worked for justice for the rural poor in California’s Central Valley. Since founding the Dolores Huerta Foundation in 2003, she has implemented the nonprofit’s grassroots community organizing model in seven rural communities in the valley. She continues to work toward the creation of a network of organized communities pursuing social justice through hands-on training for community organizing, leadership development and policy advocacy.

To learn about all of this year’s Presidential Medal of Freedom winners, read the White House’s announcement. You can watch the ceremony here. Stay tuned to Encore.org to find out who will win the 2012 Purpose Prize.