WASHINGTON, D.C. (WAFB) - President Donald Trump signed legislation Thursday, Jan. 3 to award Steve Gleason with the Congressional Gold Medal. The House of Representatives unanimously passed the legislation Dec. 20, 2018.
The Washington native, ALS advocate, and former New Orleans Saints player has become the first NFL player in history to be awarded the highest honor Congress can bestow upon a civilian.
The bill was unanimously passed by the Senate in June.
“Through his work to help others who are disabled, Steve Gleason has changed so many lives for the better,” said Senator Bill Cassidy. “As more members of Congress heard about Steve’s work, the support for this bill only grew. Steve is a hero to many and I’m proud we got this done to honor a great American.”
“New Orleans Saints fans will always remember Steve Gleason’s seven spectacular seasons with the team. But it has been Steve’s work off the field that truly distinguishes him as an American hero,” said Senator John Kennedy. “Steve works tirelessly to spread awareness for ALS, all while battling this terrible disease. No one is more deserving of a Congressional Gold Medal than Steve Gleason.”
“The Congressional Gold Medal is one of the highest honors for people who have dedicated themselves to improving the lives of others,” said Representative Cedric Richmond. “Steve Gleason is someone who represents this honor and will now receive this award. I am proud to have worked with my colleagues in both the House and Senate to make this happen. Steve will join in the ranks of fellow American trailblazers and who have changed the course of our history for the better. His enduring commitment to those with disabilities makes him a living legend and forever a Saint. The city of New Orleans and Saints fans alike are proud to have Steve recognized as a leader whose contributions will make a lasting effect for years to come.”
“In Louisiana, Steve Gleason inspired all of us as a New Orleans Saint and has continued to inspire us with his bravery and service to others battling ALS. More than 5,000 people each year are diagnosed with ALS, and Steve Gleason serves as a leading voice in championing the fight against ALS. I am pleased to announce that to honor this service, Congress is awarding Steve Gleason a Congressional Gold Medal. More than 350 Members of Congress signed on to support this legislation, a sign of how powerful a mark Steve Gleason has made on this country. Thank you, Steve,” said Representative Steve Scalise.
“It is a true honor to witness Steve Gleason become the first New Orleanian and former NFL Legend to receive the Congressional Gold Medal,” said Saints owner, Gayle Benson. “Along with his wife, Michel, and everyone at Team Gleason, they have unfailingly confronted ALS with a courageous and unwavering determination. Their tireless work to provide crucial assistance and the latest in technology and services has improved countless people’s quality of living. Steve is leaving a truly indelible mark in American history and we are honored to call him a true New Orleans Saint.”
The act, formally named the Stephen Michael Gleason Congressional Gold Medal Act, recognizes Gleason’s work through the Gleason Initiative Foundation to help those with neuromuscular diseases and injuries thrive. Gleason has advocated for federal legislation to ensure people living with ALS have access to speech generating devices. He has also lead the single largest collaborative ALS research project on the globe.
Notable recipients of the Congressional Gold Medal include Orville and Wilbur Wright, Thomas Edison, Robert Frost, Bob Hope, Walt Disney, Sir Winston Churchill, John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Mother Teresa, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Arnold Palmer, and the 1980 U.S. Summer Olympic Team.