Obama ‘choked up’ as he awards Ellen DeGeneres Presidential Medal of Freedom
TV star and proud LGBT woman Ellen DeGeneres looked emotional as she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom today.
The award was presented at the White House in a special ceremony held by President Obama.
It’s almost two decades since Ellen came out – long before most stars felt able to, and in a time when showbiz and Hollywood readily refused work to LGBT people for fear of the reaction.
President Obama spoke of how her decision to come out and to be a role model for LGBT Americans had initially harmed her career, calling for people to recognise her convictions.
In his speech to invited guests and dignitaries, President Obama said that Ellen “reminds us that we have more in common than we realise”.
“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.
“Just how important it was, not just to the LGBT community, but for all of us to see somebody so full of kindness and light, somebody we liked so much, somebody who could be our neighbor, or our colleague, or our sister, challenge our own assumptions.
“Remind us that we have more in common that we realize. Push our country in the direction of justice. What an incredible burden that was to bear, to risk your career like that.
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“People don’t do that very often. And then to have the hopes of millions on your shoulders,” Obama said during the presentation.
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 endeavours.”
Among the 21 recipients this year are Robert De Niro, Bill and Melinda Gates, Tom Hanks, Diana Ross, Vin Scully and Bruce Springsteen.
Earlier this year, Bruce Springsteen spoke out against North Carolina’s discriminatory anti-LGBTQ law, HB2, and now the Governor behind it is trying to cheat his way into re-election.
Past openly gay and lesbian honorees include Stephen Sondheim, Sally Ride, Harvey Milk, Billie Jean King and Bayard Rustin.