From Gabby Giffords to Steve Jobs: Who’s on Biden’s presidential medal of freedom list?

White House says recipients ‘have overcome significant obstacles to achieve impressive accomplishments in the arts and sciences’

Related video: Joe Biden had the best reaction when Obama awarded him the Presidential medal of freedom

Joe Biden will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 17 people, including former Arizona Representative Gabby Giffords and the late Apple founder Steve Jobs.

The White House ceremony where the medals will be awarded will take place later on Thursday.

The medal is the highest civilian honour in the US. Other recipients include actor Denzel Washington, the late Arizona Republican Senator John McCain who served in the upper chamber alongside Mr Biden, and Olympic gymnast Simone Biles.

New York City nurse Sandra Lindsay will also receive the medal. Appearing on live TV in December 2020, she became the first person in the US to receive a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. She then became an advocate for others to get the shots.

The 17 people on the list made their careers in entertainment, sports, the armed forces, academia, as well as civil rights and social justice advocacy.

Then-Vice President Biden was awarded the medal by President Barack Obama in January 2017 – a week before they left the White House.

The White House said that those on the list “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”.

Joe Biden will present the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 17 people

The honour is reserved for people who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values or security of the United States, world peace or other significant societal public or private endeavours, the White House said.

Ms Biles is the US gymnast with the most medals in history, having won 32 Olympic and World Championship medals. She’s a mental health advocate, and she also speaks out on behalf of children in foster care as well as for victims of sexual assault.

President Biden announces Simone Biles and Megan Rapinoe as recipients of Presidential Medal of Freedom

Mr McCain died of brain cancer in 2018. He was a prisoner for more than five years in Vietnam while he was serving in the US Navy. He represented Arizona in the US House from 1983 until 1987 when he joined the senate where he stayed until his death. He was the Republican nominee for president in 2008, losing to Mr Obama and Mr Biden, who said Mr McCain was a “dear friend” and “a hero”.

Denzel Washington arrives at the 94th Academy Awards nominees luncheon, March 7, 2022, in Los Angeles

Mr Washington has won two Oscars. The actor, director, and producer also has a Tony award, two Golden Globes, and the Cecil B DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. He is a longtime spokesperson for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Khizr Khan speaks at an event in Collingswood, N.J., Oct. 26, 2017

The other 13 people included on the list are, per the White House:

  • Sister Simone Campbell. Campbell is a member of the Sister of Social Service and a former executive director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice organization. She is an advocate for economic justice, overhauling the U.S. immigration system and health care policy.
  • Julieta Garcia. A former president of the University of Texas at Brownsville, Garcia was the first Latina to become a college president, the White House said. She was named one of the nation’s best college presidents by Time magazine.
  • Gabrielle Giffords. A former U.S. House member from Arizona, the Democrat founded Giffords, an organization dedicated to ending gun violence. She was shot in the head in January 2011 during a constituent event in Tucson and was gravely wounded.
  • Fred Gray. Gray was 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.
  • Steve Jobs. Jobs was the co-founder, chief executive and chair of Apple Inc. He died in 2011.
  • Father Alexander Karloutsos. Karloutsos is the assistant to Archbishop Demetrios of America. The White House said Karloutsos has counselled several US presidents.
  • Khizr Khan. An immigrant from Pakistan, Khan’s Army officer son was killed in Iraq. Khan gained national prominence, and became a 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 20th-century civil rights campaigns and worked with King.
  • Megan Rapinoe. The Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup soccer champion captains the OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League. She is a prominent advocate for gender pay equality, racial justice and LGBTQI+ rights who has appeared at Biden’s White House.
  • Alan Simpson. The retired US senator from Wyoming served with Biden and has been a prominent advocate for campaign finance reform, responsible governance and marriage equality.
  • Richard Trumka. Trumka had been president of the 12.5 million-member AFL-CIO for more than a decade at the time of his August 2021 death. He was a past president of the United Mine Workers.
  • Wilma Vaught. A brigadier general, Vaught is one of the most decorated women in U.S. military history, breaking gender barriers as she has risen through the ranks. When Vaught retired in 1985, she was one of only seven female generals in the Armed Forces.
  • Raúl Yzaguirre. A civil rights advocate, Yzaguirre was president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza for 30 years. He served as US ambassador to the Dominican Republic under Obama.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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