Biden Awards Medal of Freedom to Nancy Pelosi, Jim Clyburn

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden will award the nation’s highest honor to nearly two dozen people on Friday, including Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to become House speaker, and Congressman Jim Clyburn, who was widely credited with helping to revive his struggling campaign in 2020.

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Nineteen individuals will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony, potentially the last such event of Biden’s presidency as he seeks reelection while finishing out a four-year term.

Pelosi led the House Democrats for 20 years and worked hand-in-hand with Biden to pass his top legislative efforts, including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Clyburn, a South Carolina lawmaker and one-time House Majority Whip, gave Biden a coveted endorsement during the 2020 Democratic contest, helping the now-president win his state’s crucial Democratic primary.

Biden will also present the medal to Michael R. Bloomberg, a philanthropist and New York City’s former mayor. Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News’ parent company, Bloomberg LP.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who recently stepped down as Biden’s special envoy for climate, will be honored for his decades-long career in public service. Former Vice President Al Gore, a Nobel Peace Prize winner for his efforts to combat climate change, will receive the medal as well. Both men were Democratic presidential nominees.

In a reference to Biden’s pitch to voters on protecting democracy, the White House mentioned Gore’s concession after an extended legal dispute over the results of the 2000 presidential election, which he lost to George W. Bush.

“He accepted the outcome of a disputed presidential election for the sake of our unity,” the White House said of Gore in a press release. Former President Donald Trump, who will again face Biden in November, continues to falsely claim that there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Additionally, Michelle Yeoh, the first Asian to win a Best Actress Oscar for her performance in the film Everything Everywhere All at Once, will be honored.

The president, who has made civil rights a tenet of his campaign, will award medals to Clarence Jones, who helped write Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, as well as the late activist Medgar Evers, who was assassinated in 1963. Opal Lee, the educator and activist known for pushing to make Juneteenth a national holiday, will also receive a medal.

Katie Ledecky, the swimming champion who has won seven Olympic gold medals, will also be honored Friday. The celebrated athlete Jim Thorpe, the first Native American to win an Olympic gold medal, will receive a posthumous medal.

Former Senator Elizabeth Dole, who served as labor and transportation secretary, is a recipient as well. Her late husband, former Senator Bob Dole, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1997.

The late Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, who died in 2013, is also being lauded for his environmental protection and consumer safety advocacy.

Other awardees include Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman to go on a space mission; Phil Donahue, the daytime talk show pioneer; Jane Rigby, America’s chief scientist overseeing the world’s most powerful telescope; and Teresa Romero, the first Hispanic woman to serve as president of a national union in the US, the United Farm Workers.

Advocates Judy Shepard, who co-founded the LGBTQ-nonprofit Matthew Shepard Foundation in honor of her late son, and Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest and the founder of the world’s largest gang-intervention and rehabilitation program, are also among the honorees.

--With assistance from Michelle Jamrisko.

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