To put it lightly, it was a birthday to remember.  In fact, few people could imagine a better 94th birthday than President Gordon B. Hinckley had as he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the East Room of the White House from George W. Bush.

North door of the White House

He was honored with a dozen others including the pope, the head of National Geographic, a golf legend, the entrepreneur who lead the way toward electronic banking and a Broadway star.

This band was on hand to play for the guests to the White House

On hand to laud the recipients were several members of the Cabinet including Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and Tom Ridge and LDS Senators Orrin Hatch, Robert Bennett and Gordon Smith who came particularly for President Hinckley.

East Room of the White House

The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, recognizes exceptional meritorious service.  The medal was established by President Truman in 1945 to recognize notable service in the war.  In 1963, President Kennedy reintroduced it as an honor for distinguished civilian service in peacetime.

President Hinckley arrives in the East Room with an escort

Those who have received the honor in the past read like a Who’s Who of the American experience including Norman Rockwell, Chuck Yeager, Ronald Reagan, Bob Hope, David Brinkley, Will and Ariel Durant, Coach John Wooden and many of the Presidents and their wives.

President Hinckley applauds the others being honored

This year’s winners include Dr. Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation; cosmetics giant, Estee Lauder; and actress Rita Moreno…

The President shares a light moment with Rita Moreno.

…Gilbert Grosvenor, President of the National Geographic Society; Walter Wriston, leader of Citibank and Citicorp; editor and writer Norm Podhoretz; Edward Brooke Jr., first African-American U.S. senator; Dr. Arnall Patz, pioneering opthalmalogist who has saved thousands from blindness; Doris Day, who Bush called “America’s sweetheart”; Arnold Palmer, winner of 92 professional championships; and Pope John Paul II.