After years of captivating fans with his acting and committing to helping young people, Denzel Washington is set to be awarded the United States’ highest honour.
Washington earned his first acting credit in 1977 and over the years has gone on to become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, appearing in films such as Training Day, The Book of Eli and Man on Fire, as well as working as a director and producer.
Alongside his acting career, Washington has for more than 25 years worked as national spokesperson for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America; an organisation which proves voluntary after-school programs for young people and which Washington himself was part of as a child.
Today (7 July), he will be recognised for his work by receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom; the highest civilian honour which can be granted in the United States:
Washington will receive the medal in a ceremony at the White House, where he will be joined by 17 other recipients. The awards will be presented by President Joe Biden, who himself was awarded the honour by former president Barack Obama in 2017, a week before he and Biden, who was vice-president at the time, left office.
Other recipients set to be honoured today include Simone Biles, the most decorated US gymnast in history; nurse Sandra Lindsay, who received the United States’ first coronavirus vaccine dose; former University of Texas president Julieta Garcia, the first Latina to become a college president; and Megan Rapinoe, an Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup football champion.
There are also a number of people set to receive the awards posthumously, including Apple co-founder Steve Jobs; veteran and politician John McCain, and Richard Trumka, an advocate for social and economic justice.
In a statement announcing today’s recipients, the White House said: “President Biden has long said that America can be defined by one word: possibilities. These seventeen Americans demonstrate the power of possibilities and embody the soul of the nation – hard work, perseverance, and faith.
“They have overcome significant obstacles to achieve impressive accomplishments in the arts and sciences, dedicated their lives to advocating for the most vulnerable among us, and acted with bravery to drive change in their communities – and across the world – while blazing trails for generations to come,” the White House continued.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom was established under former President John F. Kennedy and is presented to those who ‘have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavours’.