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Presidential Medal of Freedom: Biden honours activists, astronauts and Olympians

Image source, Ian MacNicol

Legend, American Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky

President Joe Biden bestowed America’s highest civilian honor on activists, astronauts and Olympians at the White House.

Among the 19 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom was Jim Thorpe, the first Native American to win a gold medal. He died in 1953.

Mr. Biden also recognized the most decorated swimmer in history, Katie Ledecky.

Most of the recipients were fellow Democrats of Mr. Biden.

Among them, two presidential candidates: former Vice President Al Gore and former Secretary of State John Kerry, who has just left his post as US special envoy for climate.

Another, Nancy Pelosi, was the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

“History will remember you as the greatest president,” Mr. Biden told him in brief remarks.

Business tycoon and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg was also recognized.

Image source, Getty Images

Legend, Ellen Ochoa aboard the space shuttle Discovery

Other pioneers honored include Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman in space, and Michelle Yeoh, the first Asian to win the Academy Award for best actress.

During Friday’s ceremony, Mr. Biden mistakenly called her “Michael Yeoh” before quickly correcting himself.

Teresa Romero, the first Latina to become president of a national union, the United Farm Workers, was recognized.

So did Phil Donahue, the first television producer to include audience participation on a daytime talk show.

Image source, Getty Images

Legend, Jim Thorpe won gold in the pentathlon and decathlon in 1912.

One of the activists receiving a medal was Opal Lee, who advocated for Juneteenth to become a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. Mr. Biden declared June 16 a national holiday during his first year in office.

The president also awarded medals to civil rights leaders Clarence B Jones, who helped write Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s I Have a Dream speech, and Medgar Evers, who died in 1963, as well as Gregory Boyle , founder of Homeboy Industries, and Judy Shepard. , campaigner against hate crimes.

The medals are awarded to individuals who have made significant contributions to American art, culture and society.

One of this year’s medals will be awarded to Jane Rigby, chief scientist of the James Webb Telescope, the most powerful telescope in the world.

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