(The Hill) – Denzel Washington, Simone Biles, Megan Rapinoe and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) are among those who will be awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Biden.
Seventeen people in total will be recognized with the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the country’s highest civilian honor — at a ceremony next Thursday at the White House.
The medal is 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,” the White House said Friday in announcing this year’s recipients.
In addition to “Fences” star Washington, Olympic athletes Biles and Rapinoe, and gun reform advocate Giffords, Biden will posthumously award the medal to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who died in 2018 of brain cancer, late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, and former AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, who died last year.
Also among those being honored: former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), Sisters of Social Service member Simone Campbell, former University of Texas at Brownsville President Julieta García, former Vicar General of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America Alexander Karloutsos, Gold Star father Khizr Khan, civil rights attorney Fred Gray, Sandra Lindsay, a nurse who was the first American to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee founding member Diane Nash, brigadier general Wilma Vaught and civil rights advocate Raúl Yzaguirre.
Previous Medal of Freedom winners included such famed figures as Tom Hanks, former Rep. Shirley Chisolm (D-N.Y.), Oprah Winfrey, Meryl Streep and Michael Jordan.
During his administration, former President Trump took heat from critics for moving to honor a number of prominent conservatives with the Medal of Freedom, including talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh, then-Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
Biden himself has been awarded the honor — in 2017, President Obama surprised his vice president by presenting him with the Medal of Freedom at the annual ceremony.