Politics

Biden awards Medal of Freedom to Nancy Pelosi, Al Gore, Katie Ledecky and more


Washington — President Biden awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, on Friday to 19 recipients, including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former Vice President Al Gore and Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky. 

Mr. Biden spoke briefly about each honoree, praising their “relentless curiosity, inventiveness, ingenuity and hope.” 

Nodding to the criticism of his own age as he runs for a second term at age 81, Mr. Biden praised the 27-year-old Ledecky, arguably the greatest female swimmer of all time, as she prepares for the Paris Olympics this summer. 

“Don’t let age get in your way,” Mr. Biden said. “Katie, age is just a number, kid.” 

Mr. Biden also used the occasion to make thinly-veiled references to the threat he says former President Donald Trump is to democracy. The two are the 2024 presumptive Democratic and Republican presidential nominees, respectively. 

The president recalled Gore conceding the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush after weeks of legal battles over the vote recount in Florida. Trump refused to concede after Mr. Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 election and has defended the rioters who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in protest of the outcome of the election. 

“After winning the popular vote, he accepted the outcome of a disputed presidential election for the sake of unity and trust in our institutions,” Mr. Biden said of Gore. “That to me was amazing what you did, Al — I won’t go into that.” 

He called Pelosi the “greatest speaker of the House of Representatives,” saying she “used her superpowers to pass some of the most significant laws in our nation’s history.” 

“On January 6, Nancy stood in the breach and defended democracy with her husband, Paul,” the president said. “They stood up to extremism with absolute courage, physical courage.” 

Pelosi’s husband was attacked by a man with a hammer who broke into their San Francisco home while the then-speaker was out of town. 

It’s the second time Mr. Biden has awarded Presidential Medals of Freedom. The latest round of recipients includes honorees both living and deceased. 

The full list of 2024 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients: 

Michael Bloomberg, an entrepreneur, philanthropist and three-term mayor of New York City. 

Father Gregory J. Boyle, a Jesuit Catholic priest and founder and director of Homeboy Industries, a gang rehabilitation and re-entry program.

Rep. Jim Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat who has served three decades in the House. He previously served as House Majority Whip and Assistant Democratic Leader. 

Elizabeth Dole, who served as a North Carolina senator from 2003 to 2009. She was also Transportation Secretary under President Ronald Reagan, Labor Secretary for President George H.W. Bush and the president of the American Red Cross. 

Phil Donahue, a journalist who pioneered the daytime issue-oriented talk show. 

Medgar Wiley Evers is being honored posthumously. He led the fight against segregation in Mississippi after fighting for his country in World War II. He was murdered at age 37 in 1963. 

Al Gore. The former vice president won the popular vote in the 2000 presidential election, but conceded the presidency to George W. Bush after a weeks-long recount battle in Florida. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his climate change work. 

Clarence B. Jones, a renowned civil rights activist and lawyer who helped draft Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

John Kerry, who was Secretary of State for President Barack Obama and the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate under Mr. Biden. He earned a Silver Star and Bronze Star for his actions during combat in the Vietnam War. 

Frank R. Lautenberg is being honored posthumously. The five-term senator from New Jersey is remembered for his work on environmental protection and consumer safety. 

Katie Ledecky has won seven Olympic gold medals and 21 world championship gold medals, making her the most decorated female swimmer in history. 

Opal Lee, an educator and activist who pushed to make Juneteenth a national holiday

Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman in space and the second female director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. She has flown in space four times. 

Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California made history in 2007 when she was elected the first woman to serve as speaker of the House. She made history again in 2019 when she was reelected to the position. 

Jane Rigby, the chief scientist of the James Webb Space Telescope, the most powerful telescope ever built.

Teresa Romero, president of the United Farm Workers and the first Latina to become president of a national union in the United States.

Judy Shepard, co-founder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, an organization created in honor of her gay son who was brutally murdered. 

James Francis Thorpe is being honored posthumously. He was the first Native American to win an Olympic gold medal. 

Michelle Yeoh. The actress last year won the Academy Award for best actress for her role in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” becoming the first Asian to win the category. 



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