Biden recalls friendship with McCain, lauds Giffords during Medal of Freedom presentation
Jul 7, 2022, 1:34 PM
(Getty Images Photos)
PHOENIX – President Joe Biden recalled his friendship with John McCain and lauded Gabby Giffords for her courage while presenting the prominent Arizona political figures with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Thursday.
Giffords, a former congresswoman, and McCain, a longtime U.S. senator who died in 2018, were among 17 Americans chosen by Biden to receive the nation’s highest civilian honor during a ceremony at the White House.
Cindy McCain accepted the medal on behalf of her husband, who was the Republican presidential nominee in 2008, when Biden was on the Democratic ticket as vice president.
Here is Cindy McCain accepting the Presidential Medal of Honor for her late husband and former U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
— KTAR News 92.3 (@KTAR923) July 7, 2022
During the ceremony, Biden shared personal stories about his relationship with John McCain. The two were longtime friends despite representing opposing parties.
Biden said he encouraged McCain to first run for office “because I knew what incredible courage, intellect and conscience he had.”
The president also recounted how he and wife Jill introduced John and Cindy to each other in the late 1970s.
“He still owes me,” Biden said, drawing laughs and applause. “I think it’s the best thing we ever did for John. The very best.”
Cindy McCain currently serves as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture for the Biden administration.
Moments ago, President Joe Biden spoke about Gabby Giffords, who is receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom today.
(Via ABC News)pic.twitter.com/zc4X2OTBtX
— KTAR News 92.3 (@KTAR923) July 7, 2022
Biden acknowledged Giffords and her husband, U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly, for their advocacy work on gun violence prevention since she survived a 2011 assassination attempt in Tucson.
“On Monday, we’ll celebrate the most significant gun safety law in 30 years because of them and because of the families like theirs all across America,” he said.
“Gabby is one of the most courageous people I have ever known.”
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey tweeted his congratulations, calling the medal “a fitting honor for these two amazing Arizonans.”
U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema also issued a statement congratulating her fellow Arizonans.
I join all Americans in honoring two incredible Arizonans and dear friends, the late Senator John McCain and former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, for earning the Presidential Medal of Freedom. https://t.co/jvmf4Zr6Tu
— Kyrsten Sinema (@SenatorSinema) July 7, 2022
“John and Gabby both represent integrity, resilience, and strength, all of which are values worthy of earning America’s highest civilian honor. Arizona – and America – is proud,” Sinema said.
U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton called the presentation “a great honor for two great Arizonans.”
Senator John McCain and @GabbyGiffords have shown us all what it means to live a life of tremendous courage that exemplifies the very best of America.
A great honor for two great Arizonans. https://t.co/ir9ollZ9ml
— Rep. Greg Stanton (@RepGregStanton) July 7, 2022
Raúl Yzaguirre, a civil rights advocate and former U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, was 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.
We want to hear from you.
Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.