President Joe Biden announced that women’s soccer player Megan Rapinoe will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor for “individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors.”
Rapinoe, an Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup champion “is a prominent advocate for gender pay equality, racial justice, and LGBTQI+ rights,” the White House said. More famously, she has repeatedly kneeled in protest during the playing of the National Anthem.
“President Biden has long said that America can be defined by one word: possibilities. These seventeen Americans demonstrate the power of possibilities and embody the soul of the nation – hard work, perseverance, and faith,” the statement continued. “They 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.”
Another controversial pick for the medal is late AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, who took the Fifth Amendment to not incriminate himself in his role in the 1996 Teamster election, which was tainted with corruption.
Trumka in 2010 in Anchorage said that there was something “just not right” with former Gov. Sarah Palin.
Trumka said Palin would “go down in history like McCarthy,” a reference to Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
“Palinism will become an ugly word,” Trumka said at an AFL-CIO convention in Anchorage. “Who is this woman, anyway? What happened to her?
“She used to have a job, your governor. You knew her. Or thought you did. I know I thought I did. She seemed like a decent person, an outdoorswoman. Her husband’s a steelworker. She seemed to take some OK stands for working families. And then things got weird. After she tied herself to John McCain and they lost, she blew off Alaska. I guess she figured she’d trade up … shoot for a national stage. Alaska was too far from the Fox TV spotlight,” Trumka said in Anchorage.
“Instead, she’s hanging out on cable TV, almost a parody of herself, coming out with conspiracy theories about Obama and his ‘death panels.’ … Talking about ‘the real America.’ Talking about building schools in ‘our neighboring country of Afghanistan.’ Writing speech notes to herself on her hands. Sometimes — about Sarah Palin — you just have to laugh. … But it’s not really funny,” he said.
He also attacked those who supported Palin: “To me, it just doesn’t seem OK to go where she’s going. It sits wrong with me. … The ‘Mama Grizzlies,’ Sarah Palin says, just sense when something’s not right. Well … I wonder if those ‘Mama Grizzlies’ can sense something’s just not right with her.”
He then blamed “Palin’s crazy magnet” for pulling Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski to the right.
The National Right to Work Foundation issued a fact sheet about Trumka’s history with violent strikes.
“As president of the United Mine Workers (UMW) union, Trumka led multiple violent strikes. Trumka’s fiery rhetoric often appeared to condone militancy and violence, especially against workers who dared to continue to provide for their families by working during a strike. As a Virginia judge ruled in 1989, ‘violent activities are being organized, orchestrated and encouraged by the leadership of this union,'” NRTW wrote.
“Take the murder of Eddie York, a nonunion contractor, who was shot in the back of the head and killed while leaving a worksite in 1993. Trumka and other UMW officials were charged in a $27 million wrongful death suit by Eddie York’s widow. After fighting the suit intensely for four years, UMW lawyers settled suddenly in 1997 — just two days after the judge in the case ruled evidence in the criminal trial would be admitted.
“Later, as Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO, Trumka pleaded the Fifth Amendment before Congress and a court-appointed election monitor over his role in an illegal fundraising scheme to benefit the Teamsters president Ron Carey’s re-election. Trumka has remained in his position ever since despite an AFL-CIO rule (adopted in 1957) which held that union officials who plead the Fifth have “no right to continue to hold office” in the union umbrella organization,” the group wrote.
Read more about Trumka’s history of condoning union violence and corruption in the Foundation’s Fact Sheet.
The others being awarded the medal, as described by the White House, are:
Simone Biles is the most decorated American gymnast in history, with a combined total of 32 Olympic and World Championship medals. Biles is also a prominent advocate for athletes’ mental health and safety, children in the foster care system, and victims of sexual assault.
Sister Simone Campbell
Sister Simone Campbellis a member of the Sisters of Social Service and former Executive Director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice organization. She is also a prominent advocate for economic justice, immigration reform, and healthcare policy.
Dr. Julieta García is the former president of The University of Texas at Brownsville, where she was named one of Time magazine’s best college presidents. Dr. García was the first Hispanic woman to serve as a college president and dedicated her career to serving students from the Southwest Border region.
Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was the youngest woman ever elected to the Arizona State Senate, serving first in the Arizona legislature and later in the U.S. Congress. A survivor of gun violence, she co-founded Giffords, a nonprofit organization dedicated to gun violence prevention.
Fred Gray was one of the first black members of the Alabama State legislature since Reconstruction. As an attorney, he represented Rosa Parks, the NAACP, and Martin Luther King, who called him “the chief counsel for the protest movement.”
Steve Jobs (posthumous)
Steve Jobs (d. 2011) was the co-founder, chief executive, and chair of Apple, Inc., CEO of Pixar and held a leading role at the Walt Disney Company. His vision, imagination and creativity led to inventions that have, and continue to, change the way the world communicates, as well as transforming the computer, music, film and wireless industries.
Father Alexander Karloutsos
Father Alexander Karloutsos is the former Vicar General of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. After over 50 years as a priest, providing counsel to several U.S. presidents, he was named by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as a Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Khizr Khanis a Gold Star father and founder of the Constitution Literacy and National Unity Center. He is a prominent advocate for the rule of law and religious freedom and served on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom under President Biden.
Sandra Lindsayis a New York critical care nurse who served on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic response. She was the first American to receive a COVID-19 vaccine outside of clinical trials and is a prominent advocate for vaccines and mental health for health care workers.
John McCain (posthumous)
John McCain (d. 2018) was a public servant who was awarded a Purple Heart with one gold star for his service in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam. He also served the people of Arizona for decades in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate and was the Republican nominee for president in 2008.
Diane Nash is a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who organized some of the most important civil rights campaigns of the 20th century. Nash worked closely with Martin Luther King, who described her as the “driving spirit in the nonviolent assault on segregation at lunch counters.”
Alan Simpson served as a U.S. Senator from Wyoming for 18 years. During his public service, he has been a prominent advocate on issues including campaign finance reform, responsible governance, and marriage equality.
Brigadier General Wilma Vaughtis one of the most decorated women in the history of the U.S. military, repeatedly breaking gender barriers as she rose through the ranks. When she retired in 1985, she was one of only seven women generals in the Armed Forces.
Denzel Washington is an actor, director, and producer who has won two Academy Awards, a Tony Award, two Golden Globes, and the 2016 Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also served as National Spokesman for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for over 25 years.
Raúl Yzaguirre is a civil rights advocate who served as CEO and president of National Council of La Raza for thirty years. He also served as U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic under President Barack Obama.