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The Conversation


President Donald Trump awarded his first ever Presidential Medals of Freedom this month to seven recipients: Babe Ruth, Elvis Presley, Antonin Scalia, Orrin Hatch, Roger Staubach, Alan Page and Miriam Adelson. It is the nation’s highest civilian honor.

These ceremonies, which normally occur once or twice per year, provide Americans with an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of various people who have made an important contribution to U.S. culture. Because the president selects recipients with total discretion – American or otherwise, living or dead –- this award also says a lot about the president himself.

What achievements or contributions does the president consider important? What groups of people most easily win his favor? And how does he hope to shape his legacy, judging by the company that he chooses to keep?

To find out, we’ve analyzed every Presidential Medal of Freedom ever awarded, and the presidents who awarded them – including Trump.

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