President Biden gave out the nation’s highest civilian award to 17 recipients Thursday — including Sandra Lindsay, a nurse from Quee
President Biden gave out the nation’s highest civilian award to 17 recipients Thursday — including Sandra Lindsay, a nurse from Queens who was the first American to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Lindsay, the director of nursing for critical care at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Medical Center, joined champion gymnast Simone Biles, soccer star Megan Rapinoe, fellow New Yorker “Father Alex” Karloutsos and others at the White House to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
During the ceremony, Biden said Lindsay had “poured her heart into helping patients fight for their lives” throughout the pandemic.
“Sandra, as I told you before, if there’s any angels in heaven, they’re all nurses — male and female,” said Biden, adding that while doctors “let you live,” nurses “make you want to live.”
Lindsay received her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 14, 2020 after the Trump administration pushed out vaccines through Operation Warp Speed. She went on to get her second shot on Jan. 4, 2021, becoming the first person in the US to be fully vaccinated against the deadly virus.
Ironically, one of the other honorees, actor Denzel Washington, was unable to attend Thursday’s ceremony after testing positive for COVID-19.
Other recipients included gun control activist and former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), prominent Donald Trump critic Khizr Khan, civil rights advocate Raul Yzaguirre, retired Brig. Gen. Wilma Vaught, former University of Texas at Brownsville president Dr. Julieta Garcia, Catholic social activist Sister Simone Campbell, civil rights activist Diane Nash, and civil rights lawyer Fred Gray — who represented both Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.
Prior to giving Biles her medal, Biden joked that “I don’t know if you’re gonna find room” for the honor in her trophy case, which already contains 32 Olympic and World Championship medals.
Three luminaries were honored posthumously: Apple founder Steve Jobs, AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
Biden spoke of McCain last, recalling that “we agreed on a lot more than we disagreed on.”
“We used to argue like hell on the [Senate] floor, then go down & have lunch together,” he said.
“I never stopped admiring John. I never said a negative thing about him in my life because I knew his honor, his courage and his commitment,” the president claimed. “That was John McCain.”
At one point, Biden said he was “the guy that encouraged John to run for office” and took credit for introducing the late senator to his widow Cindy, who was present to accept the honor on McCain’s behalf.
After all the recipients had been given their medal, Biden stepped back to the podium and addressed the crowd once more.
“This is America,” he said to applause, including from disgraced first son Hunter Biden, who was spotted in the front row.
Previous recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom include Tiger Woods, Bill Gates, Ellen DeGeneres, Tom Hanks, Diana Ross, Julia Child, and Biden himself.