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Zeta Phi Beta’s Opal Lee to Receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Opal Lee, a member of Zeta Phi Beta and renowned advocate for Juneteenth, will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Joe Biden today according to the White House. The announcement comes as a recognition of Lee’s tireless efforts to establish Juneteenth as a national holiday in the United States.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian honor in the nation, awarded to individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, as well as those who have significantly impacted societal, public, or private endeavors.

In 2016, at the age of 89, Opal Lee embarked on a remarkable journey from her home in Fort Worth, Texas, to Washington, D.C., in a symbolic march to raise awareness about Juneteenth. Her determination and spirit captured the attention of the nation as she walked for months to advocate for the recognition of Juneteenth as a national holiday.

“My idea was to walk from Fort Worth to Washington, D.C., and that surely somebody would notice a little old lady in tennis shoes,” Lee told KTRK-TV in Houston. “I left in September 2016, I got to Washington on January 10th, 2017.”

Lee’s persistence paid off in 2021 when President Biden signed the bill into law, officially designating Juneteenth as a federal holiday. The now 94-year-old Lee was present at the White House for the historic moment, receiving well-deserved praise for her lifelong dedication to the cause.

Opal Lee’s advocacy for Juneteenth has been widely celebrated as instrumental in raising awareness about the holiday’s significance and its importance in commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. Her work has left a lasting legacy, inspiring countless individuals to honor and celebrate Juneteenth across the nation.

The awards ceremony for the Presidential Medal of Freedom is scheduled to take place at the White House, where Opal Lee will be recognized alongside other distinguished recipients for their outstanding contributions to American society.