Photo: Megan Western/HUNSBy Megan Western, NewsVision Reporter
President Joe Biden welcomed nearly 600 American Olympians and Paralympians from the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games and the 2022 Beijing Winter Games to the White House South Lawn on Wednesday, May 4.
Hundreds of smiling guests were seated facing the Olympic athletes, who were seated in bleachers in front of the White House, which was draped in Team USA banners.
It was the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic that the teams have been allowed to visit the White House. The event also marked the first time that the Summer and Winter Games held a joint celebration.
The President, in collaboration with the First Lady and Vice President Harris, greeted the athletes with praise for their endurance and state of mind. First lady Jill Biden gave the opening remarks, thanking the athletes for showing society the heights of its human potential.
“You represent the very soul of America, and that’s not a hyperbole,” she said. “You genuinely do. You help us to believe in the impossible and leave our differences behind.”
In similar fashion, President Biden commended the athletes’ characters, saying, “We believe in America anything is possible, and you are the explanation of what we mean.”
He went further highlighted the many ways Team USA provided unity for the nation in a what he called a time of division and isolation.
“We’ve been a very divided nation philosophically as of late, but you brought us together,” Biden stated. “For no matter the divisions, when we see you compete, we feel a common pride in those three letters: U-S-A.”
The athletes were all smiles as they were acknowledged at the White House. For many in attendance, the event was reassurance that their actions are a sign of unity. The day brought hope to athletes like discus thrower Reggie Jager III.
“To talk to Joe Biden twice, and Kamala [Harris] as well, and to have them acknowledge you and take photos just shows you how much you’ve done for this country,” Jager explained. “It’s an amazing contribution. I love it.”
President Biden also welcomed Elena Myers Taylor, the most decorated Black athlete in Winter Olympics History, to the podium.
2020 Tokyo Track And Field Olympian Teahna Daniels, also found this moment honorable, specifically as a Black woman.
“The start off, our country was created with slavery.” Daniels said. “To have representation, Black representation, and being invited by the President, and sitting behind him as he gives us these great accolades, is really an amazing transition.”