WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden is presenting the Medal of Freedom – the nation’s highest honor – to 17 people Thursday, including actor Denzel Washington, gymnast Simone Biles and former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
The president is also presenting the award posthumously to Sen. John McCain, Apple founder Steve Jobs and Richard Trumka, who was president of the AFL-CIO.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom, which was established under former President John F. Kennedy, is one of the highest awards a civilian can receive.
As vice president, Biden received the award in January 2017 from former President Barack Obama – one week before the two left office. He was presented the award for his public service as a U.S. senator and vice president.
The award is being 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,” according to the White House.
“President Biden has long said that America can be defined by one word: possibilities,” the White House said in a statement last week announcing the recipients. “These seventeen Americans demonstrate the power of possibilities and embody the soul of the nation – hard work, perseverance, and faith.”
Here are the recipients:
Biles is the most decorated U.S. gymnast in history, winning 32 Olympic and World Championship medals. The gymnast is also an outspoken advocate on issues that are personal to her, including athletes’ mental health, children in foster care and sexual assault victims.
Washington is an actor, director, and producer who has won two Academy Awards, a Tony Award, two Golden Globes, and the 2016 Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition, he has served as the national spokesman for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for over 25 years.