Long Beach

Sister Simone Campbell From Long Beach to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

"I was stunned and sort of speechless," the advocate for racial and economic justice said after learning that she would receive the nation's highest civilian honor.

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President Joe Biden will award a nun from Long Beach, who has spent the past two decades advocating for social justice issues that counter America's more conservative Roman Catholic leaders, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the White House announced Friday.

Sister Simone Campbell is one of the 17 people who will receive the nation's highest civilian honor next week.

The Medal of Freedom recognizes 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," according to a White House news release.

Campbell tweeted Friday that she is "deeply honored" to be awarded for "lifting up the experiences of ordinary people" to create policies.

"I was stunned and sort of speechless," Campbell said after learning that she would receive the award.

Campbell attended St. Anthony's High School in Long Beach and is a member of the Sisters of Social Service in Los Angeles.

She is the former executive director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice organization, in which she led Nuns on the Bus -- a program where nuns travel across the country to advocate for federal policies.

Before NETWORK, she was a longtime social justice lobbyist in Washington, D.C., pushing for immigration reform and racial and economic justice, including former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.

In 2020, she gave the invocation at the Democratic National Convention.

Campbell is working on project called UnderstandingUS to encourage dialogue between progressives and conservatives.

"What I see is our democracy is really in trouble because we're polarized, and we don't talk to each other," she said. "You don't have to agree, but we do have to respect each other."

While some people are telling Campbell that she should look at the award as a culmination of her life's work, she said she sees it as an invitation to move forward.

"It's not just about the past. We all have work to do to, to really heal our nation and come together," she said.

Other recipients include Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Diane Nash, former CEO and president of National Council of La Raza Raúl Yzaguirre and actor Denzel Washington.

Read more about the recipients here.

The White House ceremony is expected to take place on Thursday.

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