WASHINGTON, July 8 – Gymnastics veteran Simone Biles and two World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe were among 17 dignitaries honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom award at the White House on Thursday from Joe Biden.
The highest award for U.S. citizens is given to those who make “an outstanding contribution, especially to the security or interests of the United States, world peace, culture or other important public or private efforts.”
The highly acclaimed American gymnastics champion with 32 Olympic and world championships, Biles has undergone detoxification techniques and at the Tokyo Games, he has emerged as a champion in the health and mental health of athletes.
“When he stands on the platform, we see what he is: A complete courage to turn personal pain into a major goal. Stand up and speak for those who can not speak for themselves,” Biden said.
The 25-year-old Freedom Fellows testified before the Senate Justice Committee that American gymnastics officials and the Olympics had failed to prevent sexually abused athletes from being treated by Dr. Larry Nassar.
“Today he adds to his medal count – how are we going to find a place?” Said Biden.
Rapinoe, a fierce soccer player with red hair inside and outside the stadium, won the Olympic gold in 2012 and appeared as the leading gender pay advocate in his national team’s legal battle with the governing body.
“Megan is a champion of America’s most important truth: That everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect,” Biden said.
Rapinoe received his medal with a handshake and shot Biden, in a white paper jacket with the word “BG” emblazoned on the paper, which is a memorization of the WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia since February on a drug charge.
Other recipients include the late Senator John McCain, former Congressman Gabby Giffords, a survivor of gun violence and a lawyer for the prevention of gun violence, and Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington. Mr. McCain’s entourage following his death included former AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Steve Jobs of Apple.
“I’m the guy who encouraged John (McCain) to run in the election,” Biden said. “I knew what an amazing courage, intelligence, and conscience he had.”
The dignitaries include Sister Simone Campbell, former President of the University of Texas at Brownsville Julieta García, Father Alexander Karloutsos, Father of Gold Star Khizr Khan, Nurse Sandra Lindsay, civil rights advocates Diane Nash and Fred Gray, former Senator Alan Simpson, former Senator Alma Simpson. Vaught with activist Raúl Yzaguirre.