Denzel Washington, Simone Biles, Fred Gray, and Diane Nash Among 17 Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients Announced by Biden

President Biden on Friday announced 17 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, including Olympic gymnast Simone Biles and former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and former Senator John McCain are among those receiving the award posthumously.

The awards will be presented at the White House Thursday, July 7.

“The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors,” the White House said in a statement Friday. “President Biden has long said that America can be defined by one word: possibilities.”

“These seventeen Americans demonstrate the power of possibilities and embody the soul of the nation – hard work, perseverance, and faith,” the White House statement continued. “They 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 Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal are the highest awards civilians can receive. The Presidential Medal of Freedom was established under former President John F. Kennedy.

Here are the recipients:

Simone Biles
Olympic champion Simone Biles has advocated for the mental health and safety of athletes, as well as victims of sexual abuse. She testified on Capitol Hill last year about Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics doctors who stands accused of sexually assaulting hundreds of women and girls.

Sister Simone Campbell
Sister Simone Campbell, a member of the Sisters of Social Service , advocates for immigration reform and economic justice.

Julieta García
Dr. Julieta García, former president of The University of Texas at Brownsville

Gabrielle Giffords
Former Rep. Gabby Giffords is a survivor of gun violence who has dedicated her life to gun violence prevention.

Fred Gray
Fred Gray represented Rosa Parks, the NAACP, and Martin Luther King, and was considered a top lawyer for racial justice.

Steve Jobs (Posthumous)
Steve Jobs, who died in 2011, has transformed the way the world communicates, the White House notes.

Father Alexander Karloutsos
Father Alexander Karloutsos was formerly the Vicar General of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and has provided counsel to multiple U.S. presidents.

Khizr Khan
Khizr Khan is the Gold Star father who drew Donald Trump’s criticism after speaking at the 2016 Democratic convention.

Sandra Lindsay
Sandra Lindsay is a New York nurse who served on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

John McCain (posthumous)
Former Senator John McCain received a gold star for his service in Vietnam, and served the U.S. as a congressman and senator for decades. He earned the respect of both Democrats and Republicans.

Diane Nash
Diane Nash organized key civil rights campaigns during segregation.

Megan Rapinoe
Olympic soccer star Megan Rapinoe, the White House notes, has advocated for gender pay equality and LBGTQ+ rights.

Alan Simpson
Alan Simpson, a former U.S. senator for Wyoming, advocated for good governance and marriage equality.

Richard Trumka (posthumous)
Richard Trumka led the AFL-CIO for more than a decade before he died last year.

Wilma Vaught
Brigadier General Wilma Vaught broke barriers for women in the military, and was one of only seven women generals across the Armed Forces when she retired in 1985.

Denzel Washington
Renowned actor Denzel Washington has played public role advocating for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for more than a quarter of a century.

Raúl Yzaguirre
A civil rights advocate, Raúl Yzaguirre was the U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic under former President Barack Obama.

SOURCE: CBS News, Kathryn Watson

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