Chita Rivera Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Two time Tony Award–winning actress Chita Rivera was honored by President Barack Obama today. Obama presented the boricua legend with a Presidential Medal of Freedom; she was one of 16 recipients. 

Of the honorees, Obama said, "These outstanding men and women represent an incredible diversity of backgrounds. Yet they share one overarching trait: Each has been an agent of change. Each saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way. Their relentless devotion to breaking down barriers and lifting up their fellow citizens sets a standard to which we all should strive. It is my great honor to award them the Medal of Freedom."

The 76-year-old Rivera earned her two Tony nods for her roles in the Kander and Ebb-Terrence McNally musicals The Rink and Kiss of the Spider Woman, but is best known as the originator of the character of Anita in West Side Story. In 2002, she was the first ever Latino recipient of the coveted Kennedy Center Honor for her exemplary achievements in the arts.  Of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Rivera said, "When my mother was a child, she rolled Easter eggs on the lawn of the White House. And now, to receive the Medal of Freedom from our president is truly a dream. I am deeply honored to receive this award and to be in such distinguished company. I only wish my parents were here to share it with … but they are!"