Who did US President Joe Biden give the Medal of Freedom to?
President Biden presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ most prestigious civilian honour, to 17 recipients on Thursday.
Sports stars Simone Biles and Megan Rapinoe were among those honoured in Washington, DC on Thursday, as President Joe Biden awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 17 recipients in a ceremony at the White House.
Considered the US’ highest civilian honour, the Medal of Freedom is presented to “individuals who have made an exemplary contribution 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. It was first awarded in 1963, having been established by President John F. Kennedy.
Biden tells Biles: I don’t know if you have room for another medal!
At 25, Biles became the youngest living person ever to receive the Medal of Freedom. Addressing the gymnast, who won four golds at the Rio Olympics in 2016, Biden said: “Today, she adds to her medal count of 32 - I don’t know if you’re going to find room.”
In addition to making a major impact as an athlete, Biles has become a prominent advocate for mental health, after withdrawing from events at the Tokyo Games last year because she was not in the right psychological state to compete. She has also worked to support victims of sexual assault. In 2018, the Texan announced that she was abused by Larry Nassar, who has been convicted of molesting hundreds of women and girls while serving as USA Gymnastics’ team doctor.
Rapino the first soccer player to receive Medal of Freedom
Rapinoe, a winner of two soccer World Cups and one Olympic gold with the US women’s national team, is the first player in her sport to be given the Medal of Freedom. The 37-year-old has also been a prominent voice in the battle for LGBTQ+ rights and racial justice. “Beyond the World Cup titles and Olympic medals, Megan is a champion for an essential American truth: that everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect,” Biden said.
Rapinoe, who was named FIFA’s The Best Women’s Player in 2019, has also worked hard to stand up for gender pay equality. “Men are so often paid and compensated on the potential that they show, not necessarily what they’ve done,” she told NPR in 2020. “And women are so often paid on what they’ve actually done.” In May, US Soccer announced equal pay for the members of its women’s and men’s national teams.
McCain, Jobs given award posthumously
Also among the recipients of the Medal of Freedom was Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington, who was unable to attend the ceremony after testing positive for covid-19. Former US senator and presidential candidate John McCain was honoured posthumously, as was Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.