Biden gives Katie Ledecky and Michelle Yeoh the Medal of Freedom

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Biden also honors some key political allies in the Democratic Party

WASHINGTON, USA – A winner of seven Olympic gold medals, a leader of the civil rights struggle in Mississippi and a pioneer of the tabloid television talk show genre are among this year’s class of recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

US President Joe Biden presented America’s highest civilian honor to 19 people, including Team USA swimmer Katie Ledecky, slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers and television host Phil Donahue.

“Don’t let your age get in your way,” Biden, the oldest U.S. president at 81, told the 27-year-old Ledecky as he encouraged her to seek more medals during an awards ceremony at the White House Friday. “Katie, age is just a number, boy.”

The honors list is a special tribute to ‘firsts’ in their field, including the Everything everywhere at once actress Michelle Yeoh, the first Asian to win the Academy Award for Best Actress; Ellen Ochoa, the first Spanish woman in space; and Jim Thorpe, the versatile athlete who in 1912 became the first Native American to win an Olympic gold medal.

Biden also celebrated some key political allies in the Democratic Party, from Rep. Jim Clyburn, who saved his 2020 presidential primary with an endorsement in South Carolina, to Nancy Pelosi, who shepherded his legislative agenda through Congress until last year as Speaker of the House Delegates. .

Also included are several one-time presidential candidates, former Senator Elizabeth Dole, former Vice President Al Gore, former Secretary of State John Kerry and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“After winning the popular vote, he accepted the outcome of a disputed presidential election for the sake of unity and confidence in our institutions,” Biden said of Gore’s concession to George W. Bush in the 2000 election, a jab at ex- President Donald Trump, who never conceded his 2020 loss to Biden.

“I loved what you did, Al. I’m not going to comment on that.” The comment caused some laughter.

“In my opinion, the last two guys should be up here on this stage,” Biden said of Gore and Kerry.

Bloomberg, a billionaire businessman who has strayed from the Republican Party he once called home, could become a major backer of the president’s 2024 reelection campaign.

Biden also honored Father Greg Boyle, a Catholic priest who founded the gang intervention program Homeboy Industries; Opal Lee, an activist who pushed for Juneteenth to become a holiday marking the end of slavery in the United States; Senator Frank Lautenberg, consumer safety advocate; astrophysicist Jane Rigby; Teresa Romero, president of United Farm Workers; LGBT attorney Judy Shepard; and Clarence B. Jones, who helped draft Dr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Martin Luther King Jr. –