Former Saints player Steve Gleason received his Congressional Gold Medal on Wednesday, January 15 at a ceremony in the United States Capitol Satuary Hall. Now, he'll be recognized at a ceremony on Capitol Hill after almost a decade of those efforts, as the latest recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal.
Gleason, who spent seven years on the Saints, is one of fewer than 200 people who have received the gold medal, according to a news release about the award ceremony. He's remained a common sight on the Saints sideline, is active in community fund-raisers and benefits, and maintains an active social media presence - all while fighting ALS, the neurodegenerative disease that has confined him to a wheelchair, only able to communicate through a cutting-edge text-to-speech computer program. "I am honored and accept the Congressional Gold Medal for all the families who have been diagnosed with ALS, as well as anyone struggling to overcome life's inevitable adversities".
". I don't see my story as a football story, or even an ALS story, 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 goal", he said. "It represents some joy, some encouragement and some triumphs for the tens of thousands of families living with ALS and others living with disabilities or experiencing anguish, tragedy or adversity". "Through his example of how he lives, he has changed life for us all". I was sitting in the front row as I always did, with assistant head coach Joe Vitt next to me, and head coach Sean Payton directly across the aisle. Of all the people on this earth, Steve is the last person to ever deserve something like this.
"Steve was as blunt and raw and honest as he could be in that email, detailing his diagnosis but also acknowledging that he was scared and frustrated".
"I'm betting on you [to do it], Steve", Drew said with a laugh.
The Stephen Michael Gleason Congressional Gold Medal Act honors his work through his Team Gleason foundation "to provide individuals with neuromuscular diseases or injuries with the assistance they need to thrive, his advocacy for federal legislation ensuring people living with diseases such as ALS have access to speech generating devices, and his leadership in bringing together the single largest coordinated and collaborative ALS research project in the world".