Ellen DeGeneres Receives Medal of Freedom for Gay Rights Influence

As we discussed previously, Ellen DeGeneres has earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her charity work and her influence on the gay rights movement.

Now, she has finally received that medal alongside Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro and Michael Jordan and many other worthy recipients. At the award ceremony, President Obama touched on how it’s easy to forget the huge risk Ellen took when coming out two decades ago.

Initially, her decision did harm her career, but Ellen remained steadfast and became an icon for LGBT Americans everywhere.

Obama said: “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 realise. Push our country in the direction of justice. What an incredible burden that was to bear, to risk your career like that. People don’t do that very often. And then to have the hopes of millions on your shoulders.”

The Medal of Freedom is the highest honour that a civilian can receive, and recognises contributions to US culture, security and international interests.

“These are folks who have helped make me who I am,” Obama said. “Everybody on this stage has touched me in a very powerful, personal way, in ways that they probably couldn’t imagine.”

You can see the full list of recipients below. Have you followed us on Facebook and Twitter?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Elouise Cobell (posthumous)
Ellen DeGeneres
Robert De Niro
Richard Garwin
Bill and Melinda Gates
Frank Gehry
Margaret H. Hamilton
Tom Hanks
Grace Hopper (posthumous)
Michael Jordan
Maya Lin
Lorne Michaels
Newt Minow
Eduardo Padrón
Robert Redford
Diana Ross
Vin Scully
Bruce Springsteen
Cicely Tyson