Steinem, who turns 80 in March, returned to the NPC podium earlier this week to discuss an altogether more satisfying piece of neckwear: the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest honor the U.S. can bestow on a citizen who isn’t in the military—which Obama draped around her neck during Wednesday’s ceremony at the White House. He praised her for promoting “lasting political and social change in America and abroad and, among other things, for “inspiring us all to take up the cause of reaching for a more just tomorrow.”
“I can think of no president in history from whose hand I would be more honored to receive this medal from,” Steinem told the NPC audience, adding, “I’d be crazy if I didn’t understand that this was a medal for the entire women’s movement.”
Since the late ’60s Steinem has been an outspoken activist for women’s issues including reproductive rights and equal pay:
Steinem quickly became a leader in the pro-choice movement and, more than forty years later, remains one of its most prominent voices. She devoted the next 20 years of her life to writing and speaking publicly as one of America’s foremost feminists. In the ‘70s she testified in front of the Senate on behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment and co-founded groups like the National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC) and the Women’s Action Alliance dedicated to “eliminating concrete manifestations of economic and social discrimination.” Over the next decade, she broadened her activism to include civil rights for minorities and gay rights. Not long after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1986, Steinem was forced to step back from the feminist frontlines, though she remains an outspoken advocate today.
I think I speak for many Americans when I say thank you for all that you’ve done.