A comedy legend, a home run king and a human rights champion were among an elite group of 12 recently honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in Washington, D.C.
President Bush presented the nation's highest civilian honor to Bill Cosby, Hank Aaron, Nelson Mandela and others in arts, sports, entertainment, politics and journalism in the East Room of the White House.
"Bill Cosby is a gifted comedian who has used the power of laughter to heal wounds and build bridges," Bush said. "By focusing on our common humanity, Bill Cosby is helping to create a truly united America."
True to his jokester reputation, Cosby shouted "Present!" when his turn came to receive the award. When the president patted the comedian on the back as they stood together during the ceremony, Cosby pretended Bush had goosed him, then tripped on the way back to his seat.
The president also paid tribute to Hank Aaron, who hit 755 home runs in his 23-year career with the Milwaukee Braves, Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers.
"Hank Aaron overcame poverty and racism to become one of the most accomplished baseball players of all time," Bush said. "By steadily pursuing his calling in the face of unreasoning hatred, Hank Aaron has proven himself a great human being, as well as a great athlete."