Sixteen Americans were honored by President Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Thursday. 

Among them were Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, soccer star Megan Rapinoe, and former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. 

Posthumously, both Senator John McCain and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs were honored. 

Despite Denzel Washington's absence from Thursday's ceremony, President Biden promised to present the actor with an award soon. 

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honour in the United States and is given for "significant societal, public, or private endeavours." 

"The Fourth of July week reminds us what brought us together long ago and still binds us, binds us at our best," Mr. Biden said Thursday.  

The president gave a speech in which he thanked each honoree in turn, beginning with Biles for her many contributions to the United States and the world. 

"When we see her compete, we see unmatched, unmatched power and determination, grace and daring," the president said .