Newsletter

Stay up to date with the latest from MAKERS delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for new stories from trailblazing women, a big dose of inspiration, and exclusive MAKERS content.

Newsletter Confirmation

Thank you for joining! Please check your inbox for our special welcome letter
with exclusive updates from MAKERS.

Margaret Hamilton, Ellen DeGeneres, Melinda Gates, and More Awarded Presidential Medals of Freedom

Margaret Hamilton, Ellen DeGeneres, Melinda Gates, and More Awarded Presidential Medals of Freedom

MAKERS Ellen DeGeneres, Melinda Gates, and many more influential men and women were among this year's list of deserving recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. President Barack Obama handed out the medals on Tuesday to honor their lifelong achievements.

"Everybody on this stage has touched me in a very powerful, very personal way," Obama said. "These are folks who have helped make me who I am."

One of this year's recipients includes upcoming MAKER Margaret Hamilton, the woman who led her team in the creation of the software used onboard NASA's Apollo spacecraft. This on-board software actually made it possible for humans to land on the moon, paving the way for the future of software engineering.

In honor of the event celebrating Hamilton and fellow honorees, MAKERS' Senior Video Producer, Elizabeth Bohnel sat down with the now 80-year-old mathematician and computer science pioneer over the weekend. Here's what she had to say:

Every day I am more inspired and energized by my job. But, as I sit here replaying this past weekend's interview I conducted, it still feels somewhat surreal.

Margaret [Hamilton] and I had been on and off the phone numerous times over the last few months trying to plan our meeting. Whenever we were not chatting on the phone, I was running around trying to find someone new with whom to share her story.

Over time, we began to develop a friendship, laughing about how a producer (myself) and an MIT scholar (Margaret) — both intense planners by nature — were unable to find a time in our busy schedules.

Eventually, President Barack Obama made the announcement. She, along with many other deserving honorees, would receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom this month. So, we hopped back on the phone to make it happen. This was the "in" we needed.


Sitting down with Margaret after months of chatting and attempted planning was a joy, to say the least. We were two kindred spirits coming together for a long overdue introduction.

Since I had promised her I would make her comfortable in front of the camera, she too promised that, upon feeling comfortable, she would open up about her incredible life. She did.

After about two hours, we had talked all about her many journeys, the difference she's made in her lifetime, and the upcoming Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Below, get a sneak peek of a few of my favorite exclusive moments from our discussion:

Margaret Hamilton discusses her dream of going to the moon after applying to a newspaper advertisement from MIT, looking to help NASA get to the moon.

Margaret Hamilton shares her daughter's mistake, which led to Hamilton's discovery of possible errors in flight. The software would be used on every Apollo mission from that point forward.

Margaret Hamilton tells how the software she created helped land NASA's Apollo 11 and humans on the moon.

NEXT: The Medal of Freedom List: MAKERS Who Have Received the Honor Since 1993 »

Related Stories:
Female NASA Mathematician Will Receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom
2015 Presidential Medal of Freedom Awards for MAKERS Gloria Steinem and Oprah Winfrey

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Margaret Hamilton