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Biden to Honor 19 Leaders with Presidential Medal of Freedom

Photo : AP

WASHINGTON — Clarence B. Jones was taken aback when he received a call from the White House informing him that President Joe Biden intended to award him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. At 93, Jones, a pivotal figure in the Civil Rights Movement, initially questioned the authenticity of the call. Yet, the caller assured him it was indeed genuine.

Jones, a lawyer who provided legal counsel to Martin Luther King Jr. and contributed to the drafting of the iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, is among the distinguished group of 19 individuals set to receive the prestigious honor on Friday. The recipients, spanning diverse fields including politics, sports, entertainment, civil rights, and LGBTQ advocacy, have made remarkable contributions to American society.

The 19 honorees, selected for their outstanding achievements and dedication to the nation's prosperity and values, include seven politicians, three posthumous recipients, and individuals from various sectors such as journalism, sports, and activism.

Among the recipients are former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, Rep. James Clyburn, former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, climate activist Al Gore, former Vice President John Kerry, and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Notably, Clyburn's endorsement played a significant role in Biden's victory in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.

Posthumous honors will be bestowed upon Medgar Evers, the NAACP's pioneering field officer in Mississippi during the 1960s, who tragically lost his life to violence, and Jim Thorpe, the first Native American to win Olympic gold for the U.S.

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The diverse group also includes Michelle Yeoh, the first Asian woman to win an Academy Award for best actress, and Judy Shepard, a prominent LGBTQ advocate who co-founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

Reflecting on the honor, Jones expressed gratitude and a sense of humility, acknowledging the challenges of his age but expressing readiness to fulfill any responsibilities bestowed upon him by the White House.

In addition to Jones, the list of recipients includes Gregory Boyle, Phil Donahue, Katie Ledecky, Opal Lee, Ellen Ochoa, Jane Rigby, and Teresa Romero — individuals whose exceptional contributions have left an indelible mark on American society.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony serves as a tribute to the remarkable achievements and enduring legacies of these distinguished individuals, highlighting their unwavering commitment to advancing the nation's ideals and values.

Biden's decision to honor these individuals underscores his administration's commitment to recognizing excellence and leadership across diverse fields, reaffirming the importance of civic engagement and public service in shaping the nation's future.

The ceremony, scheduled for Friday, will be a testament to the enduring impact of these individuals and their remarkable contributions to the fabric of American society.

May 3, 2024 5:24 p.m. 4510

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