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Singer Renee Fleming, actor Dick Van Dyke, TV personality Robin Roberts, musician Lionel Richie, actor Laura Kelly and others listen as President Barack Obama speaks underneath the box where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theatre in Washington.
updated 6/6/2010 10:48:21 PM ET 2010-06-07T02:48:21

President Barack Obama said Sunday the legacy of the nation's founding fathers has inspired freedom-seeking people around the globe for generations, including those rebuilding South Africa after the end of apartheid.

Obama addressed an enthusiastic crowd at the annual Ford's Theatre gala Sunday, where South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and South African Constitutional Court Justice Albie Sachs received the theater's Lincoln Medal.

"There are few people so deserving of the Lincoln Medal," Obama said of the two honorees.

Tutu spoke of the global need for peace and respect and spoke of the current conflicts in the Middle East.

"Security is not something that comes from the barrel of a gun," he told the crowd.

Sachs spoke of meeting Obama when the then-senator visited South Africa's courts.

A longtime admirer of Lincoln's writing, Sachs said he felt a connection between the historic president and Obama. This spark was made more powerful by Obama's presence in South Africa, where Lincoln's legacy was influential on the nation's new leaders.

Ford's Theatre awards the Lincoln Medal "to individuals who exemplify the legacy and character embodied by President Abraham Lincoln," who was assassinated at the theater in 1865.

The gala featured performances by "American Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson, comedian George Lopez, performer Dick Van Dyke and pop star Lionel Richie. It was hosted by Ty Burrell of "Modern Family," and will air July 2 on ABC.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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