Former Saints hero turned ALS champion Steve Gleason receives highest civilian honor
Former Saints player and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) survivor Steve Gleason received the Congressional Gold Medal Wednesday, the highest honor Congress gives to civilians. It is a fitting medal for a man who bleeds gold. Joining figures like Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela and George Washington, Steve Gleason was recognized for his work on and off the field.
“Truly all things are possible,” said Gleason in front of a packed Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.
The man responsible for giving New Orleans a “rebirth” with a punt block in the first game back in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina was recognized for his service as an athlete, but more importantly a man who inspires others as he struggles with ALS.
“I believe that the problems we face are our opportunity and define our human purpose,” said Gleason.
Gleason’s purpose shifted from football to helping others. He has access to state-of-the-art machines that help him communicate. Many others with ALS did not until Gleason challenged Congress to pass a bill that increased access to the technology.
“You are a source of strength to so many. Especially me. A true American hero,” said Drew Brees, quarterback of the New Orleans Saints and a former teammate of Gleason’s.
Gleason brought lawmakers together for the hour-long ceremony here on a divided Capitol Hill. Both sides of the aisle singing Gleason’s praises.
“He’s getting through it and he’s showing how you can do it with dignity,” said Minority Whip Steve Scalise.
The Louisiana congressman lobbied for Gleason to receive this honor along with the rest of the Louisiana delegation. Scalise says Gleason was the symbol of New Orleans rising up from tragedy. And though the punt-blocking hero can no longer stand, Gleason continues to push forward.
“He could’ve sat back and said woe is me, but instead he said you know what I’m going to go and fulfill my full potential,” said Scalise.