On August 8, 2013, President Barack Obama announced that Cuban Arturo Sandoval will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in this country. It recognizes individuals who have made “meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
Established through an Executive Order by President Kennedy, the Presidential Medal of Freedom can be awarded to the same individual more than once. Past recipients include Mother Teresa, Colin Powell, former United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former President Ronald Regan and actress Chita Rivera.
Recent nominee to the award, jazz trumpeter, pianist and composer Arturo Sandoval hails from Artemisa, Cuba. Sandoval was influenced by jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie and in 1977 had the opportunity to meet Gillespie, who at the time was playing in Cuba and promptly became Sandoval’s mentor. Together they played concerts in Cuba and Europe and while touring with Gillespie in 1990, Sandoval defected to the United States.
Sandoval’s recording career extends outside of mainstream jazz. He has recorded with Gloria Estefan, Kenny G, and Frank Sinatra and has played in concerts with Celine Dion, Tito Puente, Alicia Keyes and Justin Timberlake.
Sandoval has been awarded 9 Grammy Awards, and nominated 17 times.
While the announcement of Sandoval’s selection met with acclaim, a few Cuban groups have expressed disappointment that a Cuban would accept an award from a President who favors a reconciliation with a regime that has oppressed the Cuban people for five decades.
How do you feel about Sandoval receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom?
For a four minute video of Sandoval’s playing “My Way” click on the link below: