The award is considered the highest honor that can be bestowed on an American civilian and is "presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."
In announcing this year's recipients, the White House said of Dylan: "One of the most influential American musicians of the 20th century, Dylan released his first album in 1962. Known for his rich and poetic lyrics, his work had considerable influence on the civil rights movement of the 1960s and has had significant impact on American culture over the past five decades. He has won 11 Grammys, including a lifetime achievement award. He was named a Commandeur dans l'Ordre des Art et des Lettres and has received a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation. Dylan was awarded the 2009 National Medal of Arts. He has written more than 600 songs, and his songs have been recorded more than 3,000 times by other artists. He continues recording and touring around the world today".
The award will be presented in the late Spring with Dylan being joined by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, civil rights supporter John Doar, physician William Foege, astronaut and senator John Glenn, WWII internment camp activist Gordon Hirabayashi, civil rights and workers advocate Dolores Huerta, Polish Underground member Jan Karski, Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Law, author Toni Morrison, Israeli president Shimon Peres, Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens and NCAA basketball coach Pat Summitt.
President Obama said of the recipients "These extraordinary honorees come from different backgrounds and different walks of life, but each of them has made a lasting contribution to the life of our nation. They've challenged us, they've inspired us, and they've made the world a better place. I look forward to recognizing them with this award."