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