2022 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients announced

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Interview with Denzel Washington

The list spans politics, sports and entertainment to celebrate Americans who’ve made an impact

President Joe Biden has announced this year’s recipients for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which include 17 people from many different sectors who have made strong contributions to what makes the United States what it is.

The awards, which are meant to recognize anyone who has made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors,” are the highest civilian honors within the United States. They were first established in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy, and have been awarded annually since then. The recipients are always decided by the current President, who decides on them by recommendation or their own initiative.

This year, President Biden has decided to award a diverse group, from Hollywood legends like Denzel Washington to beloved athletes like Megan Rapinoe and Simone Biles. He has also chosen to award a few people posthumously, including Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and former Senator John McCain. The awards ceremony will be held at the White House on Thursday, July 7.

The official list of award recipients are as follows:

Denzel Washington, two-time Academy Award winner, Tony Award winner and Cecil B. Demille Lifetime Achievement Award winner

Simone Biles, most decorated American Olympic gymnast in history and mental health advocate

Sister Simone Campbell, activist and executive director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice organization

Dr. Julieta García, first Hispanic person to serve as a college president, named as one of Time’s Best College Presidents

Gabby Giffords, former Congresswoman from Arizona, survivor of gun violence and founder of Giffords, a nonprofit organization dedicated to gun violence prevention

Fred Gray, attorney who represented Rosa Parks, the NAACP and Martin Luther King, often called “the chief counsel for the protest movement”

Steve Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple. Died in 2011

Father Alexander Karloutsos, former Vicar General of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and religious counsel to many former Presidents

Khizr Khan, Gold Star father who gained prominence after criticizing President Trump’s anti-Muslim policies in 2016

Sandra Lindsay, a New York nurse who served on the front lines of the pandemic, and the first American to receive the COVID-19 vaccine

John McCain, former Arizona Senator and Purple Heart recipient. Died in 2018

Diane Nash, founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who worked closely with Martin Luther King to organize protests of segregated lunch counters

Megan Rapinoe, Olympic gold medalist, two-time Women’s World Cup champion, and activist

Alan Simpson, former U.S. Senator from Wyoming

Richard Trumka, former AFL-CIO president and union activist. Died in 2021.

Brigadier General Wilma Vaught, one of the most decorated women in the US military of all time

Raúl Yzaguirre, former US ambassador to the Dominican Republic and civil rights advocate