WATCH: Ellen DeGeneres Receives Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama
Ellen DeGeneres received the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Tuesday (Nov. 22, 2016) for her contribution to notable change and progress in the United States.
DeGeneres was among the 21 recipients of this prestigious honor along with Bruce Springsteen, Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro, Bill and Melinda Gates, and others. A White House aide described how, throughout the three decades of her career, DeGeneres has “lifted our spirits and brought joy to our lives as a stand-up comic, actor and television star” and how she exhibited courage by coming out in the late 1990s.
“At a pivotal moment, her courage and candor helped change the hearts and minds of million of Americans, accelerating our nations’ constant drive towards equality and acceptance for all,” he continued before referencing a famous quote from Dory, her character in Finding Nemo. “Ellen DeGeneres has shown us that a single individual can make the world a more fun, more open more loving place, so long as we just keep swimming.”
DeGeneres was visibly emotional as President Barack Obama placed the medal around her neck. “It’s easy to forget now when we’ve come so far, where now marriage is equal under the law, just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages almost 20 years ago,” President Obama said after he presented her with the Medal of Freedom. “Just how important it was. Not just to the LGBT community, but for all of us.”
“Ellen counters what too often divides us, with the countless things that bind us together, inspires us to be better, one joke, one dance at a time.”
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest honor that a civilian can receive. Watch the presentation of her medal in the video below.
In addition to receiving praise from fans for her White House Mannequin Challenge video, DeGeneres was sent congratulatory messages from celebrities that commended her personal and professional accomplishments. Ellen Page, who came out as gay in 2014 and thanked DeGeneres on Ellen in that same year for inspiring her to publicly address her sexuality, thanked DeGeneres once again on Twitter.
Rob Lowe also said that he was “so proud” of DeGeneres and the other Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients.
Watch the full ceremony in the player at the top of the page.