WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday presented the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to 17 people, including gymnast Simone Biles and soccer star Megan Rapinoe.
“Today, she adds to her medal count,” Biden said as he introduced Biles, a former foster child whose 32 Olympic and World Championship medals make her the most decorated U.S. gymnast in history.
“I don’t know how you’re going to find room,” for another medal, Biden joked. The 25-year-old is an advocate for athletes’ mental health, foster care children and sexual assault victims. She’s also the youngest person to ever receive the medal, Biden said.
Rapinoe, an Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup soccer champion, captains the OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League. She is a prominent advocate for gender pay equality, racial justice and LGBTQI+ rights.
Biden said she is the first soccer play to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The 17 people receiving honors “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.
It was the first time Biden had awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He closed the ceremony by declaring, “This is America.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.