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Obama’s last days as commander-in-chief

In tearful farewell, Obama awards Biden the Medal of Freedom

JOSH LEDERMAN and VIVIAN SALAMA | 1/20/2017, 4:39 p.m.
At the dusk of both of their political careers, surrounded by teary friends and family, President Barack Obama last Thursday ...
Vice President Joe Biden hugs President Barack Obama after being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction during a tribute in the State Dining Room of the White House, Jan. 12. Pete Souza

WASHINGTON (AP) – At the dusk of both of their political careers, surrounded by teary friends and family, President Barack Obama last Thursday bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Joe Biden, the man he called “the finest vice president we have ever seen.”

The vice president winced in shock as Obama announced he was conferring the nation’s highest civil honor on his right-hand-man for eight years. Biden turned away from the cameras, wiped away some tears, then stood stoically as Obama draped the blue-and-white ribbon around his neck.

“I just hope that the asterisk in history that is attached to my name when they talk about this presidency is that I can say I was part of the journey of a remarkable man who did remarkable things for this country,” Biden said.

Speaking ahead of Biden, Obama said the tribute will give the internet one last chance to joke about the “bromance” the two share. He called Biden the “best possible choice, not just for me, but for the American people.”

Obama commended the “Biden heart,” listing the influences in Biden’s life, from the nuns who taught him in grade school, to his Senate colleagues, to his parents.

Noting that Biden’s career is “nowhere close to finished,” Obama said his vice president will go on to have an impact in the U.S. and abroad.

Obama names three national monuments honoring civil rights

By VIVIAN SALAMA

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Obama administration designated three new national monuments Jan. 12 honoring civil rights history as it prepared to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“President Obama is taking new steps to promote diversity and inclusivity in our nation’s system of national parks, national forests, monuments and other public lands and waters,” a White House statement said, adding that the designations “will protect historic sites in Alabama and South Carolina that played an important role in American history stretching from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement.”

The monuments are the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument in Alabama, the Freedom Riders National Monument in Anniston, Alabama, and the Reconstruction Era National Monument in South Carolina.

• Designating the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument is also aimed to protect the historic A.G. Gaston Motel, which served at one point as the headquarters for the civil rights campaign led by King that helped lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

• The Freedom Riders National Monument includes the Greyhound Bus Station where a racially integrated bus of Freedom Riders attempting to test desegregation was attacked in the spring of 1961.

• The new Reconstruction Era National Monument includes four sites throughout Beaufort County, South Carolina, honoring a community of freed, former slaves in the Reconstruction-era South.

The White House says protection for the newly named national monuments will be strongly supported by the local communities, elected officials and a wide variety of stakeholders including civil rights organizations, environmental justice groups and historic preservation groups.

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