West News Wire: 17 people, including actor Denzel Washington, gymnast Simone Biles, and the late John McCain, the Arizona Republican with whom Biden served in the U.S. Senate, will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
The New York City nurse Sandra Lindsay will also be honored by Biden, the White House said on Friday. Lindsay rolled up her sleeve live on television in December 2020 to receive the country’s first injection of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Associated Press was the first news organization to receive word of Biden’s honorees, which span the fields of academia, sports, politics, the military, entertainment, and civil rights and social justice advocacy.
The Democratic president will present the medals at the White House next week.
Biden himself is a medal recipient. President Barack Obama honored Biden’s public service as a longtime U.S. senator and vice president by awarding him a Presidential Medal of Freedom in January 2017, a week before they left office.
The honorees who’ll receive medals from Biden “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 White House said.
The honor is reserved for people 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, the White House said.
Biles is the most decorated U.S. gymnast in history, winning 32 Olympic and World Championship medals. She is an outspoken advocate on issues that are very personal to her, including athletes’ mental health, children in foster care and sexual assault victims.
Lindsay became an advocate for COVID-19 vaccinations after receiving the first dose in the U.S.
McCain, who died of brain cancer in 2018, spent more than five years in captivity in Vietnam while serving in the U.S. Navy. He later represented Arizona in both houses of Congress and was the Republican presidential nominee in 2008. Biden said McCain was a “dear friend” and “a hero.”