Spokane’s Steve Gleason Awarded the Congressional Gold Medal
For one brief hour, Steve Gleason brought together the leaders of two political parties embroiled in a partisan impeachment process.
Gleason was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on Wednesday, more than a year after President Donald Trump signed the bill bestowing the medal into law. It is the highest civilian award that can be given. It just so happened that the House of Representatives was voting Wednesday to send its two articles impeaching Trump to the Senate.
Steve Gleason was born and raised in Spokane, went to Washington State University starring in football and baseball, and played in the NFL for 8 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints. His 2006 blocked punt leading the Saints to victory in the first game at the Louisiana Superdome after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 is still a symbol to this day of a city rising above a disaster and recovering. Gleason was diagnosed with ALS in 2011 and has dedicated the remainder of his life to helping others, beginning with documenting everything he could for his kids as his condition continued to deteriorate. Gleason has helped pioneer ways people afflicted with his disease can still function deep into their diagnosis.
“I suppose, I don’t see my story as a football story, or even an ALS story,” said Gleason, “but rather, a human story. The truth is, that we all experience pain in our lives. But I believe that the problems we face are our opportunity, and define our human purpose.”
Watch New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees get choked up delivering remarks at his former teammate's ceremony yesterday:
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened the ceremony.
“We have come to honor a true American hero who has transformed the lives of so many people living with ALS,” Pelosi said. “You bring pride to our nation.”
Pelosi called Gleason “a great American whose name is synonymous with hope.” And Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, referencing Gleason’s upbringing in Spokane, said his unlikely story of success in the NFL was “a reminder that God has plans for each of us that we never could have imagined.”
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, from Washington's 5th Congressional district, and a cosponsor of the bill in the House of Representatives that gave Gleason the medal (one of 311 members to do so), said the show of bipartisanship was important on a day that ended with the impeachment articles being delivered.
“I think we are reminded of the impact of an individual. We are reminded of the importance of hope, of the importance of coming together to celebrate one another, to celebrate our country and people who go above and beyond."
Rep. Dan Newhouse, from Washington's 4th Congressional district said, “It’s really an inspiration to anybody that overcame what were seemingly impossible adversities, to be able to give back to so many people.”
Since his diagnosis, the 42-year-old Gleason has spearheaded efforts through the Team Gleason foundation to develop and provide technology to help ALS patients live longer, more fulfilling lives. Those include devices that track eye movements to help people who are paralyzed type words that can be transformed into speech. Gleason has used the technology to communicate, post messages on social media, address lawmakers from around the world and give motivational speeches to athletes.
Watch the ceremony here: