Former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, has been named as a 2009 recipient of a U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom.

This is the highest honor the U.S. can bestow on a civilian.

She will receive the award from President Barack Obama at a White House reception on August 12.

Announcing the 16 recipients today, Obama said: "Each saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way," Obama said. "Their relentless devotion to breaking down barriers and lifting up their fellow citizens sets a standard to which we all should strive."

Robinson served as president from 1990 until 1997. From 1997 to 2002, she served as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The awards were established by U.S. President Harry S. Truman to recognize civilian contributions during World War II.

Irish American President John F. Kennedy reinstated the medal in 1963 to honor distinguished service.

And this year, his brother, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy will also be honored with the medal of freedom along with Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.

Other honorees include tennis legend Billie Jean King, actor Sidney Poitier, actress-dancer Chita Rivera and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connnor.