SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images
It was a momentous day at the White House for Simone Biles, Megan Rapinoe and 15 other recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. President Biden bestowed the nation's highest civilian honor to the awardees in the East Room on Thursday.
Biles made history at the ceremony as the youngest person to ever receive the Medal of Freedom. At just 25 years old, the Olympian has become an advocate for mental health, sexual assault awareness and a fierce champion for women in sports.
"Today, [Biles] adds to her medal count of 32 - I don't know if you're gonna find room," Biden said of America's most decorated gymnast. "To turn personal pain into a greater purpose, to stand up and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves," Biden continued.
U.S. Women's Soccer star Megan Rapinoe was also present for the ceremony Thursday. Honoring the athlete for being a leading voice for equal pay in sports, Biden said of Rapinoe, "Beyond the World Cup titles to Olympic medals, Megan is a champion for an essential American truth: that everyone, everyone is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect."
Rapinoe's white pantsuit that she wore to the ceremony was emblazoned with a powerful tribute to WNBA star Brittney Griner, who is currently detained in Russia after being arrested in February. Rapinoe's lapel featured "BG" and a flower sewn onto it.
In addition to Biles and Rapinoe, the Medal of Freedom was awarded to late Sen. John McCain, Sister Simone Campbell, and Diane Nash, who worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
At the ceremony, President Biden delivered a speech to the "extraordinary group of Americans up here on the stage."
"On Monday, we celebrated the independence of our nation, a nation always a work in progress in creation of possibilities, the fulfillment of promises," the president said. "That's the American story. It's not a simple one. It's never been a simple one, but the Fourth of July week reminds us what brought us together long ago and still binds us, binds us at our best. We strive for -- what we strive for, we, the people, doing what we can to ensure the idea of America, a cause of freedom shines like the sun to light up the future of the world. That's the soul of our nation."
Biden continued, "That's who we are as Americans. And that's what we see, an extraordinary, extraordinary group of Americans up here on this stage that I have the honor to recognize today with the presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation's highest civilian award."