Steve Gleason is a true Louisiana hero. Ever since the day Steve joined his New Orleans Saints teammates in their return to the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina, he has been a uniting force in Louisiana.
But the reason Steve continues to inspire people across the country today is not because of what he did on the football field, but for the work he’s done to help millions of people living with disabilities. The bravery and courage he has displayed not only as someone diagnosed with ALS, but as a leading advocate in the fight against the disease is inspirational to all of us. Team Gleason has provided nearly $10 million in technology equipment, care services, and adventure experiences to over 15,000 people living with ALS and countless others through his advocacy and support — with an ultimate goal of bringing an end to the disease.
I have been fortunate to witness and stand beside Steve as he works to improve the lives of those who refuse to be defined by their disabilities. He has worked tirelessly to ensure they have more opportunities when seeking treatment, cures and independence.
In 2015, I was proud to lead the efforts on the Steve Gleason Act, which helped patients battling with ALS speech impairments gain access to speech-generating devices — providing them the freedom to communicate with loved ones and doctors, live more independent lives, and inspire others to never give up. This achievement was permanently extended in 2018 through the Steve Gleason Enduring Voices Act of 2017, legislation I helped introduce and pass in Congress.
To honor his achievements and thank him for his assiduous work on behalf of millions of Americans, I was proud to champion the effort in the House, along with Sen. Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge in the Senate, to award Steve Gleason with the Congressional Gold Medal. This distinguished honor recognizes his work to provide individuals with neuromuscular diseases or injuries the assistance they need to thrive and his leadership in bringing together the single largest coordinated and collaborative ALS research project in the world.
Steve’s motto of “no white flags” means that no matter what your life’s limitations may be — you never give up and you don’t let it hold you back from achieving your full potential. Steve has helped give a voice to the millions of people diagnosed with ALS. Being awarded the Congressional Gold Medal is a true testament to how powerful a mark Steve has made not only in our community, but across the country.
Steve Gleason’s spirit and determination will serve as an inspiration to the people of New Orleans and the entire nation for years to come, and I can think of no better way to honor him as an American and Louisiana hero.