Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and singer-songwriter Diana Ross were among the 21 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Tuesday.

President Barack Obama presented the awards at a White House ceremony.

The award is presented to individuals who have “made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

Obama praised DeGeneres for coming out 20 years ago.

“And she did pay a price,” Obama said. “We don't remember this; I hadn't remembered it. She did, for a pretty long stretch of time, even in Hollywood.”

“And yet today, every day in every way Ellen counters what too often divides us with the countless things that bind us together and inspires us to be better, one joke, one dance at a time,” he added.

DeGeneres was visibly emotional as the president spoke.

Obama also praised Ross, saying she “exuded glamour and grace” and earned “a permanent place in the American soundtrack.”

“Diana Ross' influence is as inescapable as ever,” Obama said.

This year's honorees also include Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Robert DeNiro, Bill and Melinda Gates, Tom Hanks, Lorne Michaels, Robert Redford, Cicely Tyson and Bruce Springsteen.