For what may be the first time in a long time, there was a day of true bipartisanship in the House of Representatives during the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony on Wednesday.
New Orleans Saints legend Steve Gleason, became the first former NFL player given the award for his work advocating on behalf of those stricken with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Gleason has been a symbol of hope throughout his life.
He is even featured as a statue erected in New Orleans with the title of “Rebirth” in front of it, which depicts the time Gleason blocked a punt against the Atlanta Falcons in the first home game played in the Superdome following hurricane Katrina.
Tragically, in 2011, Gleason was diagnosed with the neurological disease ALS. So he started Team Gleason. Since its birth, Team Gleason has provided almost $10 million in adventure technology, equipment, and care services to over 15,000 people living with ALS. Additionally, Gleason has used his platform to create a national discussion and advocate on behalf of others who suffer from the disease.
This award was fitting.
Following hurricane Katrina, many were desperately looking for a sign that their lives would someday heal. And then Gleason blocked a punt. Although it may sound trivial, to many, that play signified that there was still hope for a brighter future.
Similarly, despite being diagnosed with a terminal disease, Gleason has lived his life with the motto “No White Flags.” There is no quitting on life. There is always a hope. And he strives to share that with others every day, through both the good and bad.
During the ceremony, Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees best summed up what Gleason has meant to so many by recounting the story of when he first read about Gleason’s diagnosis in an email he received on his way to a game in Seattle.
There is no doubt, Steve Gleason is the embodiment of an American spirit, and truly, one of the best among us.