We all know the incredible work Steve Gleason has done to help those with ALS and to find a cure since his diagnosis with the deadly and debilitating disease nearly a decade ago. On Wednesday in our nation’s capital, he received the county’s highest civilian honor for that work: the Congressional Gold Medal.
Surrounded by members of the congressional delegations from Louisiana and Washington, members of his family, and former New Orleans Saints teammates, Gleason received the award from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during a ceremony at the Capitol:
Steve Gleason, a former player for the New Orleans Saints & ALS advocate, is presented with the Congressional Gold Medal.pic.twitter.com/xSIeTYFVTA— Chloe Salsameda (@ChloeSalsameda) January 15, 2020
“I suppose I don’t see my story as a football story or even an ALS story,” Gleason said, “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.”
He was originally nominated for the award by Louisiana Republican Senator Bill Cassidy two years ago.
Gleason’s friend and former teammate Drew Brees also spoke:
Saints quarterback Drew Brees speaks at the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony for Steve Gleason:— Chloe Salsameda (@ChloeSalsameda) January 15, 2020
"There is no person on earth with the strength, courage, passion & tenacity to overcome all obstacles & make the lasting impact that Steve has made."pic.twitter.com/DiMtn8UAC3
Gleason became just the 164th person or entity to receive the award in the country’s history, which requires an act of Congress to bestow. Gleason, who played for the Washington State Cougars from 1995 to 1999, was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, in 2011. There is no known cure or cause for the disease, which will typically claim the life of a person diagnosed within four years.
Gleason and his family’s struggle with the disease were highlighted in the superb documentary “Gleason” in 2016 and he has spent the time since his diagnosis advocating for ALS patients through his Team Gleason foundation. Since forming, the foundation has provided $10 million in equipment and care to 15,000 ALS patients across the country.
Congratulations to Steve, his wife Michel and their children on this incredible and much deserved honor! You can watch the entire ceremony below: