WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will present the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to 17 people, including actor Denzel Washington, gymnast Simone Biles and the late John McCain, the Arizona Republican with whom Biden served in the U.S. Senate.
Biden will also honor Sandra Lindsay, a New York City nurse, who, in December 2020, stepped up to the plate on television and received the first COVID-19 vaccination dose. The White House announced that Friday.
Biden’s honors list, which the White House shared first with The Associated Press, includes both living and deceased honorees from the worlds of Hollywood, sports, politics, the military, academia, and civil rights and social justice advocacy.
Next week, the Democratic President will hand the medals to the White House.
Biden is also a recipient of a medal. President Barack Obama honored Biden’s public service as a longtime U.S. senator and vice president by awarding him a Presidential Medal of Freedom in January 2017, a week before they left office.
The honorees who’ll receive medals from Biden “have overcome significant obstacles to achieve impressive accomplishments in the arts and sciences, dedicated their lives to advocating for the most vulnerable among us, and acted with bravery to drive change in their communities, and across the world, while blazing trails for generations to come,” the White House said.
The White House stated that this honor was reserved for individuals who have contributed in an outstanding way to the United States’ prosperity, security or value, or the world peace.
Biles, who has won 32 Olympic and World Championship golds for the United States, is America’s most decorated gymnast. She is an outspoken advocate on issues that are very personal to her, including athletes’ mental health, children in foster care and sexual assault victims.
After receiving her first COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S., Lindsay was inspired to advocate for it.
McCain, who was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2018, died from the disease in 2018. He spent over five years in Vietnam captivity while serving as a Navy officer. In 2008, McCain was elected Republican presidential nominee. Biden said McCain was a “dear friend” and “a hero.”
Washington is an Oscar-winning director, actor and producer. Washington has won a Tony Award, two Golden Globes, and the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award. He is a longtime spokesperson for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
These are the 13 other medal winners:
— Sister Simone Campbell. Campbell, a Sister of Social Service member and a former director of NETWORK (a Catholic social justice organisation), is a past executive director. Campbell is a strong advocate for economic justice as well as reforming U.S. immigration and healthcare policy.
— Julieta Garcia. Garcia is a former President of the University of Texas at Brownsville. She was the first Latina ever to be elected college president. She was named one of the nation’s best college presidents by Time magazine.
— Gabrielle Giffords. Former U.S. House Member from Arizona, Giffords was founded by the Democrat, who is dedicated to ending gun violence. She sustained serious injuries after being shot in her head at a Tucson constituent event.
— Fred Gray. Gray was the first Black member of the Alabama Legislature following Reconstruction. A prominent civil rights lawyer, Gray represented Rosa Parks as well as Martin Luther King Jr. and the NAACP.
— Steve Jobs. Apple Inc.’s co-founder, chief executive officer and chairman was Steve Jobs. In 2011, he died.
— Father Alexander Karloutsos. Karloutsos serves as Archbishop Demetrios in America’s assistant. According to the White House Karloutsos counseled many U.S. Presidents.
— Khizr Khan. An immigrant from Pakistan, Khan’s Army officer son was killed in Iraq. Khan gained national prominence, and became a target of Donald Trump’s wrath, after speaking at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
— Diane Nash. Nash, a founder member of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee organized important civil rights campaigns in the 20th Century and also worked closely with King.
— Megan Rapinoe. The Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup soccer champion captains the OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League. She is a prominent advocate for gender pay equality, racial justice and LGBTQI+ rights who has appeared at Biden’s White House.
Rapinoe, who was at training camp in Denver when the White House called to inform her of the honor, thought she was getting a prank or robocall when she saw her phone say “White House,” U.S. Soccer said in a statement. A teammate showed Rapinoe her phone and encouraged her to answer.
— Alan Simpson. Former U.S. senator, Wyoming from Wyoming was with Biden. He has long been an advocate for responsible governance, campaign financing reform, and equal marriage rights.
— Richard Trumka. Trumka, who was the president of the AFL-CIO’s 12.5million-member AFL-CIO had served more than a decade. Trumka was also a former president of United Mine Workers.
— Wilma Vaught. Vaught was a brigadier general and is one the most decorated women U.S. Military history has ever seen. Vaught broke all gender boundaries as she rose up through the ranks. Vaught was one of seven women generals who retired from the Armed Forces in 1985.
— Raúl Yzaguirre. Yzaguirre is a civil rights advocate and was President and CEO of National Council of La Raza. He served for over 30 years. Under Obama, he was the U.S. Ambassador to Dominican Republic.
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