President Barack Obama presented the 2011 National Humanities Medal to PEN President Kwame Anthony Appiah today. Established in 1997, the National Humanities Medal honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities.

In the official citation for the award, Appiah was honored as a philosopher “seeking eternal truths in the contemporary world,” whose “books and essays within and beyond his academic discipline have shed moral and intellectual light on the individual in an era of globalization and evolving group identities.” For complete details, see the White House press release.

Born in London to an English mother and African father, Appiah was raised in Ghana. After receiving a BA and a Ph.D. in philosophy at Cambridge University, he has taught in the United States, most recently at Princeton University, where he is professor of philosophy. Among his many books are Color Conscious, Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers, and most recently, The Honor Code. He co-edited the Dictionary of Global Culture and Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African-American Experience, and reviews regularly for the New York Review of Books.

A former Chairman of PEN American Center’s Freedom to Write Committee, Appiah has been long been an outspoken proponent of free expression, standing up for the rights of writers around the world.

The National Humanities Medal is sponsored by the National Endowment of the Humanities. More information on the winners can be found on the endowment’s web site.