Heart-followers honored. A jovial and upbeat President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor, to 16 individuals this morning. The president frequently tossed in one-liners as he read short bios of the honorees, who included talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, feminist Gloria Steinem, country singer Loretta Lynn, baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, former college basketball coach Dean Smith, and former President Bill Clinton. In listing the accomplishments of the medal recipients, Obama frequently mentioned how they had followed their own hearts, which the prophet Jeremiah reminds us isn’t always such a wise course to take.
Missouri execution. Joseph Paul Franklin received a lethal injection at the state prison in Bonne Terre, Mo., a little after 6 a.m. CT today after several hours of delays due to court appeals, including a final plea to the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay, which was denied. The white supremacist serial killer turned down his final meal and offered no last words. Franklin was sentenced to death for the 1977 murder of Gerald Gordon, who was shot outside a suburban St. Louis synagogue. Franklin was accused of 22 racially motivated deaths between 1977 and 1980. Franklin also admitted to the attempted murder of Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt in 1978 and civil rights leader Vernon Jordan in 1980. Flynt, who remains paralyzed by the shooting, had requested clemency for Franklin, saying, “The government has no business at all being in the business of killing people.”
Graham hospitalized. Evangelist Billy Graham, who celebrated his 95th birthday two weeks ago, is back in the hospital with “a respiratory congestion issue,” Graham family spokesman Mark DeMoss said in a statement to CBS News. DeMoss noted that Graham had experienced a similar illness a few weeks ago: “As was the case then, we expect he will be able to return home in a day or two.”
Bush the artist. Former President George W. Bush showed off his artistic talents last night on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, including paintings of his dog Barney and a stray cat named Bob (see video clip below). Bush, who took up painting after leaving the White House, shared that he told his art teacher, “There’s a Rembrandt trapped in this body. Your job is to find it.” When Bush presented Leno with a portrait he did of the comedian, Leno said, “I can’t make fun of him now.” Former first lady Laura Bush later joined her husband on the program.