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Obama awards US freedom medals

President Barack Obama is bestowing the Presidential Medal of Freedom on more than a dozen prominent Americans 50 years after the death of the award's founder, President John F Kennedy.

Mr Obama is honouring former President Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and leaders in sports, science and public service in a White House ceremony. He says the recipients remind Americans of their own potential.

The president says the late Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, showed America's daughters, including his own, that they can set their sights high.

The ceremony opens a day of tributes to Kennedy ahead of the 50th anniversary of his assassination on Friday. Kennedy established the modern version of the medal but died before the first presentation.

Mr Obama also paid tribute to Kennedy's legacy, joining Mr Clinton to lay a wreath at Kennedy's grave.

Mr Obama and Mr Clinton held the hands of Ethel Kennedy, widow of Robert F Kennedy, as they made their way up the stairs at Arlington National Cemetery. First lady Michelle Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined the two presidents as they placed a wreath near the eternal flame that marks Kennedy's gravesite.

Mr Obama and Mr Clinton placed their hands over their hearts as a bugler played Taps near an American flag at half-mast. Mr Obama made no public comments, but greeted Kennedy relatives gathered to honour his legacy.

AP

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