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President Biden announces 17 Medal of Freedom recipients

The list of this year's Presidential Medal of Freedom award recipients was announced by the White House Friday morning, which included names like Denzel Washington, Simone Biles and Steve Jobs.  

"The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the Nation's highest civilian honor, 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," said a statement from the White House. 

President Joe Biden will present the award to each recipient. He himself has earned the award, presented by then President Barack Obama for his work both as a U.S. Senator and Vice President. 

Each of the recipients has "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," the statement said. 

Women's March On Washington
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 21: Sister Simone Campbell speaks onstage at the Women's March on Washington on January 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. Theo Wargo / Getty Images

Sister Simone Campbell, who hails from Long Beach was a crucial piece in advocating for Obama's Affordable Care Act while he was president. Along with her membership of the Sisters of Social Service, Campbell formerly headed NETWORK, a Catholic social justice organization as its Executive Director. 

In the past, Campbell has been openly critical of the Catholic Church on several occasions, including the failure to address distinct examples of sexual abuse.

She reacted to the news on Twitter, stating that she is "deeply honored by this unexpected recognition, which highlights the important work of lifting up the experiences of ordinary people in our nation in order to make policy for all."

Posthumously receiving the award this year will be Jobs, Richard Trumka and former Senator John McCain. 

All of the awards will be presented on July 7. 

A full list of the newest Presidential Medal of Freedom award recipients is as follows:

  • Simone Biles
    Biles is the most decorated gymnast in the history of American sports. She has earned 32 Olympic and World Championship medals in just under 10 years of professional competition. She is a "prominent advocate for athletes' mental health and safety, children in the foster care system, and victims of sexual assault."
  • Sister Simone Campbell
    Sister Simone Campbell is a member of the Sisters of Social Service and former Executive Director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice organization. She has long advocated for immigration reform, economic justice and healthcare policy.
  • Julieta Garcia
    Dr. Julieta Garcia was for 30 years the President of the University of Texas at Brownsville and the first Hispanic woman to serve as a college president. She was named one of Time magazine's best college presidents in 2009 and has dedicated her life to serving students from the Southwest Border region of the United States. 
  • Gabrielle Giffords
    Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who also served on the Arizona State Senate and the Arizona House of Representatives has long been a staunch gun control advocate as a victim of gun violence herself. She was the youngest woman to ever be elected to Arizona State Senate. 
  • Fred Gray
    One of the first Black members of Alabama State legislature, and civil rights attorney Fred Gray has also represented Rosa Parks, the NAACP and Martin Luther King Jr. Gray held his position on Alabama State Senate for more than 40 years. 
  • Steve Jobs
    One of the few posthumously receiving the award this year is Steve Jobs, who served in a slew of important roles over the years that included CEO and co-founder of Apple, Inc., CEO of Pixar Animation and a member of the Walt Disney Company's board of directors. His visions changed the way the world is today. 
  • Father Alexander Karloutsos
    The former Vicar General of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Father Alexander Karloutsos served in over 50 years in providing counsel to American presidents.
  • Khizr Khan
    Khan is the founder of the Constitution Literacy and National Unity Center, as well as a Gold Star father. He has advocated for the rule of law and religious freedom, as well as serving on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom under President Biden. 
  • Sandra Lindsay
    The first American to receive a COVID-19 vaccination outside of clinical trials, Sandra Lindsay is a well-known New York critical care nurse who has served along the frontlines of the pandemic. She has strongly advocated for vaccinations and mental health for health care workers. 
  • John McCain
    McCain, who died in 2018, is a Purple Heart recipient for his service in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War, as well as serving on both the House of Representatives and Senate for more than three decades. He was a Republican nominee for president in 2008.
  • Diane Nash
    A founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Diane Nash is credited for organizing some of the 20th century's most important civil rights campaigns, working closely with Martin Luther King Jr. 
  • Megan Rapinoe
    A longtime member of the United States Women's National Soccer Team, Rapinoe is an Olympic gold medalist, a two-time World Cup Champion and a staunch advocate for gender pay equality, racial justice and LGBTQI+ rights.
  • Alan Simpson
    Simpson served as Senator of Wyoming for 18 years, where he advocated for campaign finance reform, marriage equality and responsible governance. 
  • Richard Trumka
    An advocate for social and economic justice, Trumka, who died in 2021, was president of AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations), or the United State's largest federation of unions. 
  • Wilma Vaught
    One of the most decorated women in the history of the United States military, Brigadier General Wilma Vaught fought during the Vietnam War and consistently broke gender barriers. When she retired in 1985, she was one of only seven women general in the Armed Forces. 
  • Denzel Washington
    One of America's most beloved actors, Denzel Washington has consistently held his place among the top talents in Hollywood. As an actor, director and producer, he has won two Academy Awards, two Golden Globes and was awarded the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. For more than two decades, Washington has served as the National Spokesman for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. 
  • Raúl Yzaguirre
    Yzaguirre is a civil rights advocate who has served for more than 30 years as CEO and president of the National Council of La Raza. He also served as U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic under Obama. 
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