President Biden announced Friday he will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom next week to 17 individuals including ex-lawmaker and gun control activist Gabby Giffords, the late Sen. John McCain, Trump critic Khizr Khan, Olympic athlete Simone Biles and Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington.
Ms. Giffords, a former House lawmaker from Arizona, founded a gun-violence prevention group after surviving an assassination attempt in 2011.
Mr. Khan is the Gold Star father who famously criticized then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016 at the Democratic National Convention, in a speech lambasting Mr. Trump’s comments about Muslim Americans. In response, Mr. Trump attacked the Khan family, drawing criticism from some supporters and other Republicans, including Mr. McCain.
Among the other recipients are the late Steve Jobs, who co-founded Apple; Sister Simone Campbell, a Catholic nun who advocates for economic justice; Sandra Lindsay, the first American to receive the COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials, U.S. women’s soccer legend Megan Rapinoe. former Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, who advocated for campaign finance reform.
Mr. Biden also will posthumously award the medal to the late AFL-CIO director Richard Trumka.
The awards will be bestowed on Thursday at the White House.
“These seventeen Americans demonstrate the power of possibilities and embody the soul of the nation – hard work, perseverance, and faith,” the White House said in a statement. “They 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.”
The award, established 50 years ago by President Kennedy, is bestowed to individuals “who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security of national interests to the United States, to world peace, or to culture or other significant public or private endeavors.
More than 500 celebrities, sports heroes, musicians, politicians, activists, and others have received the award. There are no rules regarding the selection, and recipients are usually picked by the president.