Years ago, a rock musician, gay talk show host, and basketball player would not be among the most conventional choices for recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Previously, not many entertainment celebrities (specifically minorities) had received these honors. But in our world’s changing social climate, these daring individuals are up for the challenge of representing the freedoms that our nation stands for.

The aforementioned rock musician (Bruce Springsteen) gay talk show host (Ellen DeGeneres) and basketball player (Michael Jordan) were joined by other highly accomplished individuals, including: Margaret H. Hamilton (the woman behind the software for Apollo 1), Tom Hanks, Robert DeNiro (both actors who have won a myriad of accolades), Lorne Michaels (the creator of the infamous Saturday Night Live), Bill and Melinda Gates (The creators of the Windows operating system and some of the world’s most generous philanthropists), Diana Ross (esteemed songstress) among plenty of others who were successful in their sport, art, film, or technological industry.

Initially, my reaction was that these individuals were very well deserving of these awards due to their long list of accomplishments, and current success. Yet when I read deeper into it, I realized that these people were not only deserving of the awards because of what they had done, but due to the circumstances and clever utilization of opportunity that was needed to accomplish their goals.

In the past, African Americans, women, and gay people were often oppressed and discouraged from following their passions. In today’s progressive society, our President has recognized this struggle, and how these individuals have made use of the freedoms they have been granted to pursue their passions while inspiring and aiding others in the process. While it may be through helpful software, relatable lyrics, or successful game plans, each person deserved their accolade for pursuing against their extreme opponents.

With the extreme negativity and hate associated with the presidential election, these awards are a vital reminder that even though society has become bitter with hatred for either party, in the end, we, the people, have inalienable rights that allow us to live authentic lives as we choose. It was like the tarnished slate of the election had been wiped clean by the generosity displayed by individuals who genuinely cared for other members of society who were different than themselves. And by the power invested in us, we must carry on and do the best we can for the betterment of our nation.