John McCain, Gabby Giffords to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Jul 1, 2022, 9:33 AM | Updated: 9:45 am
The late Sen. John McCain and former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords were selected to receive the Presiden...
The late Sen. John McCain and former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords were selected to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony on July 7, 2022. (Getty Images Photos)
(Getty Images Photos)

PHOENIX – A prominent pair of Arizona political figures, the late Sen. John McCain and former Rep. Gabby Giffords, will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom next week, the White House announced Friday.

McCain, who died in 2018, and Giffords are among 17 Americans chosen by President Joe Biden to receive the honor on July 7.

“The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to 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,” the White House said in a press release.

McCain was a decorated war hero and former prisoner of war in Vietnam before spending decades in Congress representing Arizona. He was the Republican presidential nominee in 2008.

Despite being from different parties, Biden and McCain were close friends. Biden delivered a eulogy at McCain’s funeral and later appointed his widow, Cindy McCain, as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture.

Giffords is married to U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly, who holds the seat formerly held by McCain. She co-founded a nonprofit organization dedicated to gun violence prevention after surviving a 2011 assassination attempt in Tucson.

“Serving southern Arizona in Congress was an honor of a lifetime, but I’m also lucky to have had a second chance at service: in the fight to end gun violence,” Giffords tweeted after learning she was being honored by Biden.

Raúl Yzaguirre, a civil rights advocate and former U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, is a third recipient with Arizona ties. He served as presidential professor of practice in community development and civil rights at Arizona State University.

Here are the other new Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients:

  • Simone Biles: Decorated Olympic champion gymnast.
  • Sister Simone Campbell: Catholic social justice advocate.
  • Julieta García: First Hispanic woman to serve as a college president.
  • Fred Gray: Alabama attorney who represented Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and others in the civil rights movement.
  • Steve Jobs: Late entrepreneur and inventor who co-founded Apple.
  • Father Alexander Karloutsos: Former Vicar General of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
  • Khizr Khan: Gold Star father.
  • Sandra Lindsay: New York nurse and the first American to receive a COVID-19 vaccine outside trials.
  • Diane Nash: Civil rights activist and Freedom Rider.
  • Megan Rapinoe: Olympic soccer gold medalist and U.S. Women’s World Cup champion.
  • Alan Simpson: Former U.S. Senator from Wyoming who championed marriage equality.
  • Richard Trumka: Late labor leader and advocate for social and economic justice.
  • Brigadier General Wilma Vaught: Trailblazing former military leader.
  • Denzel Washington: Award-winning actor and longtime spokesman for Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

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John McCain, Gabby Giffords to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom