2023 : Jocelyn Benson Receives Presidential Medal

January 6, 2023 all-day

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson on Friday will receive the Presidential Citizens Medal, one of the nation’s highest civilian honors, for her role in overseeing the 2020 election and defending it against efforts to overturn the result.

President Joe Biden, who won that election, will host a ceremony at the White House on the second anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Supporters of former President Donald Trump broke down barriers and entered the Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s election.

Benson is one of 12 people who will receive the Presidential Citizens Medal on Friday and who the White House said “demonstrated courage and selflessness during a moment of peril for our nation.” They include Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police who defended the Capitol, election workers and officials at the state and local level.

In Benson’s case, the White House noted that during the 2020 election she “faced pressure from those seeking to overturn the election results” including having armed protesters gather outside her home in December 2020, as Trump and his allies continued to press baseless claims that the election in Michigan had been fraudulent. During the 2020 campaign, Trump threatened to withhold funding for Michigan if Benson followed through on an effort to have absentee ballot applications sent to every voter in the state amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, Benson received a John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award for having “defended the will of Michigan voters and assured them that she would protect and defend the integrity of Michigan’s vote in accordance with state law” despite pressure from Trump and others. Biden won Michigan by more than 154,000 votes.

Benson said in a statement that she was “deeply honored” to receive the medal. “As the heroes who stood guard over the nation’s electoral votes at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, can attest, defending every voice and every vote requires courage and commitment to country, our Constitution, and the will of the American voters.”

The Presidential Citizens Medal is awarded to individuals who have “performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens” and is the nation’s highest civilian honor behind the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Source: Todd Spangler, “Jocelyn Benson to receive presidential medal on Jan. 6 anniversary of US Capitol attack”, Detroit Free Press, January 3, 2023.