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Biden Will Award Medal of Freedom to Simone Biles, John McCain and Others


WASHINGTON — President Biden announced on Friday that he’ll present the Presidential Medal of Freedom next week to 17 leaders from the worlds of politics, civil rights, sports, business, education and entertainment, including the Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, the actor Denzel Washington and the primary American to receive a Covid-19 vaccine.

The recipients, the primary of his presidency, include a wide range of barrier-breaking figures familiar to many Americans in addition to distinguished political veterans Mr. Biden has known through the years. The list includes three posthumous award recipients: Steve Jobs, the pioneering co-founder of Apple; John McCain, the longtime Republican senator and two-time presidential candidate; and Richard Trumka, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. president and Democratic power broker.

“These 17 Americans reveal the ability of possibilities and embody the soul of the nation — labor, perseverance and faith,” a White House statement said. “They’ve overcome significant obstacles to realize impressive accomplishments in the humanities and sciences, dedicated their lives to advocating for probably the most vulnerable amongst us and acted with bravery to drive change of their communities — and the world over — while blazing trails for generations to come back.”

The president will honor the recipients on the White House on Thursday. The medal is the nation’s highest civilian award, first established in its current form by President John F. Kennedy and meant to honor “any one that has made an especially meritorious contribution” to national security, world peace or “cultural or other significant public or private endeavors,” as the unique executive order put it.

Through the years, presidents have typically used it to honor political allies, celebrities and Americans with stories that make a specific point that may very well be helpful to a White House in the intervening time. At times, presidents have used such medals to achieve across the aisle, as Mr. Biden is attempting by honoring Mr. McCain, his longtime colleague and friend from their Senate days.

The connection between the 2 was strained in 2008 once they were each on their respective party tickets, Mr. McCain because the Republican presidential nominee and Mr. Biden because the Democratic vice-presidential nominee. Mr. Biden attacked Mr. McCain on the time as an “offended man” who was taking “the low road to the very best office within the land.” However the two later made up, and Mr. Biden comforted Mr. McCain’s family when the Republican senator died of brain cancer in 2018.

Mr. Biden’s list includes one other distinguished former Republican senator, Alan Simpson of Wyoming, a preferred wisecracking moderate who worked across the aisle whilst he zinged politicians and journalists together with his sharp wit. Former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat from Arizona who was grievously injured during a mass shooting and have become a number one voice for gun control, will even be honored.

The president singled out several well-known civil rights leaders, including Diane Nash, a founding father of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and shut ally of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Fred Gray, a lawyer for Dr. King, Rosa Parks and others and later considered one of the primary Black members of the Alabama Legislature since Reconstruction; and Raúl Yzaguirre, who led the National Council of La Raza, a Latino advocacy organization, for 30 years.

Along with Ms. Biles, probably the most decorated American gymnast in history with 32 Olympic and World Championship medals, a medal will go to Megan Rapinoe, one other Olympian and a two-time Women’s World Cup champion. Ms. Biles has develop into a vocal advocate for mental health, foster children and victims of sexual assault while Ms. Rapinoe has spoken out for gender pay equality, racial justice and gay rights.

Mr. Biden singled out others who overcame obstacles, like Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, considered one of the few early women to function a general within the American military; and Julieta Garcia, the previous president of the University of Texas at Brownsville and the primary Hispanic woman to steer an American college. He’ll honor Sandra Lindsay, a Recent York critical care nurse who was the primary American vaccinated for the coronavirus outside of clinical trials.

Other recipients include Sister Simone Campbell, a number one Catholic social justice advocate; the Rev. Alexander Karloutsos, former vicar general of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, who has counseled multiple presidents; and Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father of a soldier killed in Iraq whose criticism of Donald J. Trump through the 2016 presidential campaign made him a hero of Democrats.

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