Biden Awards Medal of Freedom to Biles, 16 Others

Gymnast is youngest-ever recipient
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 8, 2022 4:00 AM CDT
Biden Awards Medal of Freedom to Biles, 16 Others
President Biden awards the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to Fred Gray, a prominent civil rights attorney who represented Rosa Parks, the NAACP, and Martin Luther King Jr., Thursday, July 7, 2022.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

President Biden on Thursday presented the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to 17 people, including gymnast Simone Biles, the late John McCain, and gun-control advocate Gabby Giffords. "Today, she adds to her medal count," Biden said as he introduced Biles, whose 32 Olympic and World Championship medals 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 is an advocate for athletes' mental health, foster care children, and sexual assault victims, the AP reports. She's also the youngest person to ever receive the medal, Biden said.

Biden also honored Sandra Lindsay, the Queens, New York, nurse who was 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 awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His recipient list included both living and deceased honorees (including Steve Jobs), some of them representing various stages of the president's life, from the Catholic nuns who taught him as a boy growing up in Claymont, Delaware, to Republican lawmakers he served with in the Senate to a college professor like his wife, Jill, to advocates of tightening access to firearms.

Biden introduced Giffords as "one of the most courageous people I have ever known." The former Arizona congresswoman founded the organization named Giffords to campaign for an end to gun violence and restrictions on access to guns. The Democrat almost died after she was shot in the head in January 2011 during a constituent event in Tucson. Biden also recognized former Republican Sens. Alan Simpson of Wyoming and John McCain of Arizona, recalling a less partisan era of Washington in which members of different parties would argue over issues during the day and then meet over dinner at night. (A full list of recipients can be seen here.)

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