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.”
Elouise Cobell (posthumous)
Robert De Niro
Bill and Melinda Gates
Margaret H. Hamilton
Grace Hopper (posthumous)