President Biden awards Medal of Freedom to Megan Rapinoe

President Joe Biden said Megan Rapinoe was the first female footballer to receive the Medal of Freedom.

WASHINGTON DC, DC — President Joe Biden presented the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to 17 people Thursday, including soccer player Megan Rapinoe of Seattle, gymnast Simone Biles, the late John McCain, the Arizona Republican, with dem Biden served in the Senate and gun control attorney Gabby Giffords.

“Megan, like Simone, I hope that between all the other accolades you’ve received throughout your remarkable career and your reckless play, there’s room for this medal — you’re good,” Biden said when he became the Olympic gold medalist and two-time women’s world presented cup winners in football.

Rapinoe is the captain of the OL Reign of the National Women’s Soccer League. She is a prominent advocate for equal pay, racial justice and LGBTQI+ rights.

Biden said she was the first female soccer player to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“Megan is a champion of the basic American truth that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect,” Biden said.

Biden also honored Biles, a former foster child whose 32 medals at Olympics and World Championships make her the most decorated US gymnast in history.

“I don’t know how you’re going to find room for another medal,” Biden joked. The 25-year-old campaigns for the mental health of athletes, foster children and victims of sexual assault. She is also the youngest person to ever receive the medal, Biden said.

The Democratic president, who took office at a critical time during the coronavirus pandemic, also honored Sandra Lindsay, the Queens, New York registered nurse who became the first person to be vaccinated against COVID-19 outside of clinical trials during a live television appearance in December 2020

It was the first time Biden had been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His list of recipients included both living and deceased honorees, some representing different stages of the president’s life, from the Catholic nuns who tutored him as a boy in Claymont, Delaware, to Republican lawmakers with whom he served in the Senate to a college professor like his wife Jill to supporters of increasing access to firearms.

Biden introduced Giffords as “one of the bravest people I’ve ever known.”

The former Arizona congresswoman founded the organization called Giffords to work to end gun violence and limit access to guns. The Democrat nearly died after being shot in the head during a constituent event in Tucson in January 2011.

Biden noted that he recently signed into law the most sweeping gun control law in decades — although he and others would like more restrictions — and credited Giffords and families like hers, whose lives have been transformed by gun violence, for helping make it happen have to achieve this.

“She embodies one American trait: never, ever give up,” Biden said.

Biden also paid tribute to former Republican Sens. Alan Simpson of Wyoming and John McCain of Arizona, recalling a less partisan era of Washington, when members of different parties would bicker over issues during the day and then meet over dinner at night.

McCain died of brain cancer in 2018. He spent more than five years in captivity in Vietnam while serving in the US Navy. He later represented Arizona in the House and Senate and was the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, running against Democrats Barack Obama and Biden.

Biden said he didn’t appreciate political competition, but “I never stopped admiring John … I knew his honor, his courage and his commitment.”

The 17 honorees “overcame significant obstacles to achieve impressive achievements in the arts and sciences, dedicated their lives to serving those most vulnerable among us, and acted boldly to drive change in their communities and around the world as they ignited.” Marks for generations to come,” said the White House.

Biden himself knows what it’s like to receive the medal. Then-President Obama honored Biden’s decades of public service by presenting him with a Presidential Medal of Freedom “with distinction” during a ceremony shortly before she left office in January 2017.

Biden closed the ceremony by declaring, “This is America.”

The other 12 medal recipients are:

—Sister Simone Campbell, member of the Sisters of Social Service and former executive director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice organization.

– Julieta Garcia, former President of the University of Texas at Brownsville. Garcia was the first Latina to become college president, the White House said.

– Fred Gray, one of the first black members of the Alabama legislature after Reconstruction. He was a prominent civil rights attorney who represented Rosa Parks, the NAACP and Martin Luther King Jr. and continues to practice law at age 91.

– Steve Jobs, the co-founder, CEO and chairman of Apple Inc. He died in 2011.

— Father Alexander Karloutsos, the assistant to Archbishop Demetrios of America. Karloutsos has advised several US presidents, the White House said. Biden said he was “one of my dear friends.”

— Khizr Khan, an immigrant from Pakistan, Khan’s son of an army officer, 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, founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, who organized some of the most important civil rights campaigns of the 20th century and worked with King.

— Simpson, who served with Biden in the Senate and was a prominent advocate for campaign finance reform, good governance and marriage equality. Biden called Simpson the “real deal” and joked that “he never takes himself too seriously and he never takes me seriously.”

– Richard Trumka, who was President of the 12.5 million-member AFL-CIO for more than a decade at the time of his death in August 2021. He was past President of the United Mine Workers.

– Wilma Vaught. As a Brigadier General, Vaught is one of the most decorated women in US military history, breaking gender barriers as she rises through the ranks. When Vaught retired in 1985, she was one of only seven female generals in the armed forces.

— Denzel Washington, a two-time Oscar winner, 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 spokesman for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Washington was unable to attend Thursday’s ceremony after testing positive for COVID-19, the White House said. Biden said Washington will get his medal “if he can come here.”

— Raul Yzaguirre. A civil rights activist, Yzaguirre served as President and CEO of the La Raza National Council for 30 years. President Biden awards Medal of Freedom to Megan Rapinoe

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