President Barack Obama presented the nation's highest civilian honor to former President George H.W. Bush in an East Room ceremony, Tuesday. The Medal of Freedom was given for Bush's humanitarian efforts after the Asian Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.
Fourteen others also received the award -- including former basketball star Bill Russell, businessman Warren Buffett and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
The Metal of Freedom goes to those who have made important contributions to national security, world peace and culture.
Obama praised Bush for his service to his country for more than 70 years, saying his life is a testament to the belief that public service is a noble calling.
"Like the remarkable Barbara Bush, his humility and his decency reflects the very best of the American spirit. This is a gentleman."
The president credited Bush with his efforts to reduce nuclear weapons, his direction in guiding the end of the cold war, and his handling of the of exile of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait.
The 2010 Medal of Freedom recipients were announced in November.