Four people with Maryland ties will be honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Friday: champion swimmer Katie Ledecky, ex-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, politician and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg and astrophysicist Jane Rigby.

They’re among 19 people who will be honored by President Joe Biden for “exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors,” according to the White House.

Katie Ledecky, shown winning a gold medal at the world championships last year, will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

Ledecky, born in Bethesda, is the world’s most decorated female swimmer, winning seven Olympic gold medals and 26 world championship medals — and her career isn’t over.

The 27-year-old swimmer and Stanford University graduate is soon to release her memoir, “Just Add Water,” and aims to compete at the Paris Olympics this summer.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks on the House floor at the Capitol in Washington Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022.
The White House says U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi is a “staunch defender of democracy.” (Carolyn Kaster)

Pelosi, who grew up in Baltimore’s D’Alesandro political family, ascended to the top of national politics when she became the first woman to be speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 2007 to 2011.

She served in that role again from 2019 to 2023, a tumultuous time that included the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as lawmakers were certifying the results of the 2020 election.

After Republicans regained control of the House in the 2022 elections, Pelosi stepped down from her leadership role. She continues to represent a district in California.

“A staunch defender of democracy, she has shaped legislative agendas and Democratic priorities for decades,” the White House said in a statement.

Michael Bloomberg delivers remarks via video during the opening of the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg Center in Washington, D.C., last year. He's given billions of dollars to his alma mater. (Michael A. McCoy/for the Baltimore Banner)

Bloomberg graduated from Johns Hopkins University and has been a major benefactor of the Baltimore institution, giving more than $3.5 billion over the years for student financial aid, research programs and facility improvements, according to his foundation. Multiple buildings and centers at Johns Hopkins bear the name of Bloomberg or his relatives, including the public health school.

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Bloomberg Philanthropies has also sent money to Baltimore’s city government, including funding for programs to address vacant homes.

Bloomberg, a successful businessman, also served as mayor of New York City, ran for president and co-founded the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety. He’s part of the new Baltimore Orioles ownership group.

Rigby is an astrophysicist based at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, where she is the senior project scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope, the world’s most powerful telescope. Her research includes how galaxies form and evolve.

“A prolific researcher, Dr. Rigby embodies the American spirit of adventure and wonder,” the White House said.

The other honorees are: Rev. Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest and founder of a gang-intervention program in Los Angeles; U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn; former Sen. Elizabeth Dole; talk show host Phil Donahue; the late civil rights leader Medgar Evers; former Vice President Al Gore; civil rights activist Clarence B. Jones, who helped draft Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech; former Secretary of State John Kerry; Opal Lee, an educator who promoted the Juneteenth holiday; astronaut Ellen Ochoa; labor leader Teresa Romero; Judy Shepard, co-founder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation; the late Olympic champion Jim Thorpe; and actress Michelle Yeoh.

This article has been updated with additional information about Jane Rigby.

Pamela Wood covers Maryland politics and government. She previously reported for The Baltimore Sun, The Capital and other Maryland newspapers. A graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, she lives in northern Anne Arundel County.

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