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By: Andrea Yan

President Joe Biden awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to 17 people including Simone Biles, Denzel Washington, and John McCain, in a ceremony this afternoon.

The people that received this award “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,” says the White House.

The list of recipients is diverse: both living and deceased important persons in the world of Hollywood, sports, politics, academics, and advocacy for civil rights and social justice.

Biles is the most decorated gymnast in history, with 32 Olympic and World Championship medals. Along with that, she is an advocate of issues such as athlete mental health, children in foster care, and victims of sexual assault. Biden joked that “[he] doesn’t know how [she’s] going to find room for another medal.”

McCain, who died four years ago, was in captivity for more than 5 years in Vietnam. He represented Arizona in the House and Senate. Biden says he McCain was a “dear friend” as well as “a hero.”

Washington has won the Oscars twice, a Tony award, 2 Golden Globes, and the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also been a spokesperson for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for a long time. Unfortunately, he was unable to attend the ceremony due to a positive COVID test.

Other notable award recipients include Gabrielle Giffords, Steve Jobs, Megan Rapinoe, and Wilma Vaught. Giffords is a former House member from Arizona that started an organization advocating to end gun violence. She was gravely wounded by a shot in the head in 2011 during a constituent event. When introducing her, Biden said she is “one of the most courageous people [he has] ever known.”

Jobs was a co-founder and CEO of Apple, one of the biggest tech companies in the world today. He died in 2011.

Rapinoe is an Olympic gold medalist and Women’s World Cup soccer champion. She strong supporter for equal pay across genders, racial justice, and LGBTQI+ rights. Biden pointed out that she is the first soccer player to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Vaught is a former brigadier general breaking gender boundaries as she rose in rank in the Armed Forces.

These incredible people deserve the recognition they have gotten for their passion for changing the world for the better.

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