In these tense political times, America could use some positive bipartisan legislation. Last week, a tremendous proposal emerged from Congress sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Sen. Maria Cantwell and most of the Louisiana congressional delegation.
The Democrats and Republicans from Washington state and Louisiana came together to propose legislation to award former Washington State University and New Orleans Saints football player Steve Gleason the Congressional Gold Medal — the highest civilian honor awarded by Congress.
Gleason, a native of Spokane, is well deserving of the honor.
This award is not necessarily for his play on the field — although it was stellar — but for working as an advocate for people with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. And doing so as he suffers with the disease.
“Steve Gleason was a hero for Saints fans and now he is a hero for all Americans as he finds hope and meaning in overcoming disability and creating greater opportunity for others who are disabled,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.
Gleason was diagnosed with ALS in 2011 and can no longer walk or speak.
If Gleason is awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, it will be the second time he is recognized by Congress this year. Lawmakers passed the Steve Gleason Enduring Voices Act, which will provide a Medicare payment for communication devices and the necessary accessories.
Gleason has led efforts through the Team Gleason Foundation to develop and provide technology to help ALS patients live longer, more fulfilling lives. Some of the developments include devices that track eye movements to help people who are paralyzed type words that can be transformed into speech.
Gleason uses the technology to post messages on social media and give motivational speeches to athletes and others.
Last year, Washington State University honored Gleason as the Regents’ Distinguished Alumnus. WSU noted he had become an international symbol of perseverance and determination.
“Steve Gleason epitomizes the essence of ‘Cougar Spirit,’” said Washington State University President Kirk Schulz at the 2017 ceremony. “His passion to persevere and succeed despite life’s challenges has inspired thousands, not only in the United States, but around the world.”
Gleason helped take WSU to the Rose Bowl in 1997. As a pro in 2006 — just after Hurricane Katrina — he blocked a punt for the New Orleans Saints that boosted the spirits of the hurricane-ravaged city’s people.
As a result, there is a statue of Gleason in action at the New Orleans Superdome.
Congress should award him the Gold Medal.