President Joe Biden will present the nation’s highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to 17 people, including the actor Denzel Washingtongymnast Simone Biles and the end John McCain, the Arizona Republican with whom Biden served in the US Senate.
Biden will also acknowledge Sandra Lindseythe New York City nurse who rolled up her sleeve on live television in December 2020 to receive the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine injected into an arm in the United States, the White House announced Friday.
Biden’s list of honors, which the White House first shared with The Associated Press, includes living and deceased honorees from the worlds of Hollywood, sports, politics, military, academia and the defense of civil rights and social justice.
The Democratic president will present the medals at the White House next week.
Biden himself is a medalist. 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.
The recipients who will receive Biden medals “have overcome significant odds to achieve impressive achievements in the arts and sciences, have dedicated their lives to advocating for the most vulnerable among us, and have acted bravely to drive change in their communities.” communities and around the world, while paving the way for generations to come,” the White House said.
The honor is reserved for individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values or security of the United States, world peace or other significant public or private societal endeavors, the White House said.
Biles is the most decorated American gymnast in history, winning 32 Olympic and world championship medals. She is an outspoken advocate for issues that are very personal to her, including the mental health of athletes, foster children and victims of sexual assault.
Lindsay became an advocate for COVID-19 vaccinations after receiving the first dose in the United States outside of clinical trials.
McCain, who died of brain cancer in 2018, spent more than five years in captivity in Vietnam while serving in the US Navy. He went on to represent Arizona in both houses of Congress and was the Republican presidential nominee in 2008. Biden said McCain was a “dear friend” and “a hero.”
Washington is a two-time Oscar-winning actor, director and producer. He also has a Tony Award, two Golden Globes and the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. He is a longtime spokesperson for Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
The other 13 medalists are:
— Sister Simone Campbell. Campbell is a member of the Sister of Social Service and former executive director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice organization. She is an advocate for economic justice, overhauling the US immigration system and health care policy.
— Juliet Garcia. A former president of the University of Texas at Brownsville, Garcia was the first Latina to serve as college president, the White House has said. She was named one of the top female college presidents in the country by Time magazine.
— Gabrielle Gifford. A former member of the US House from Arizona, the Democrat founded Giffords, an organization dedicated to ending gun violence. She was shot in the head in January 2011 at a constituent event in Tucson and was seriously injured.
-Fred Grey. Gray was one of the first black members of the Alabama Legislative Assembly after Reconstruction. He was a prominent civil rights attorney who represented Rosa Parks, the NAACP, and Martin Luther King Jr.
—Steve Jobs. Jobs was the co-founder, CEO and chairman of Apple Inc. He died in 2011.
— Father Alexander Karloutsos. Karloutsos is the assistant to Archbishop Demetrios of America. The White House said Karloutsos had advised several US presidents.
— Khizr Khan. An immigrant from Pakistan, the son of an officer in Khan’s army was killed in Iraq. Khan rose to national prominence and became the target of Donald Trump’s wrath, after speaking at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
—Diane Nash. A founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Nash organized some of the most important civil rights campaigns of the 20th century and worked with King.
— Megan Rapinoe. The Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup champion leads OL Reign in the National Women’s Football League. She is a prominent advocate for gender pay equity, racial justice and LGBTQI+ rights who appeared at the Biden White House.
Rapinoe, who was at boot 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 “Home Blanche,” US Soccer said in a statement. She showed her phone to a teammate, who encouraged her to answer the call.
—Alan Simpson. The retired U.S. senator from Wyoming served with Biden and was a prominent advocate for campaign finance reform, accountable governance and marriage equality.
—Richard Trumka. Trumka had been president of the AFL-CIO, which has 12.5 million members, for more than a decade at the time of his death in August 2021. He was a former president of the United Mine Workers.
—Wilma Vaught. A Brigadier General, Vaught is one of the most decorated women in American military history, breaking down gender barriers as she rose through the ranks. When Vaught retired in 1985, she was one of seven female generals in the armed forces.
— Raúl Yzaguirre. A civil rights defender, Yzaguirre served as president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza for 30 years. He served as United States Ambassador to the Dominican Republic under Obama.