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Biden to award Medal of Freedom to Gabby Giffords, Simone Biles, John McCain

Other names on the list of 17 recipients include Steve Jobs, Denzel Washington, Megan Rapinoe and Khizr Khan.
Image: Simone Biles
Simone Biles poses with the bronze medal during the women's balance beam final medal ceremony at the Tokyo Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre on Aug. 3 in Tokyo.Jamie Squire / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 17 people, including former Rep. Gabby Giffords, Olympic gymnast Simone Biles and U.S. soccer player Megan Rapinoe, the White House announced Friday.

Biden will present the medals at a White House event on July 7. The medals, the country’s highest civilian honor, are awarded at the discretion of the president to people who have made a significant cultural impact or great contributions to the country or world.

Biden will also award medals to actor Denzel Washington; Khizr Khan, the father of a fallen Muslim U.S. Army captain; and Sandra Lindsay, a New York nurse who was among the first in the country to receive a Covid vaccination.

Three other recipients will be awarded the medal posthumously: Sen. John McCain, who served in the Senate and House for decades and became the Republican presidential nominee in 2008; Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc.; and Richard Trumka, who served as president of the AFL-CIO.

Giffords, who served as a congresswoman from Arizona, was shot at a constituent event in her state in 2011. She survived and became a major advocate on gun violence prevention efforts.

Biles is the most decorated gymnast in American history, with 32 Olympic and World Championship medals, and Rapinoe is an Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women's World Cup champion.

The White House said the recipients "demonstrate the power of possibilities and embody the soul of the nation — hard work, perseverance, and faith."

The other eight recipients are former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., who has been a prominent advocate on campaign finance issues and marriage equality; Sister Simone Campbell, an advocate on progressive issues; Julieta García, the first Hispanic woman to serve as a college president; Fred Gray, one of the first Black members of the Alabama state Legislature since Reconstruction; Father Alexander Karloutsos, former vicar-general of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; Diane Nash, a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who worked with Martin Luther King Jr.; Wilma Vaught, a brigadier general and one of the most decorated women in the history of the U.S. military; and Raúl Yzaguirre, a civil rights advocate who served as CEO and president of National Council of La Raza for 30 years.

These people "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.