President Obama included LGBT icon Ellen DeGeneres among his 21 final Presidential Medals of Freedom recipients.
“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,” the president said before awarding her the highest civilian honor in the United States. “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.”
He added: “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. People don’t do that very often. And then to have the hopes of millions on your shoulders.”
President Obama began to choke up during his speech, and lightened the mood with a joke before continuing to praise DeGeneres.
“Today, every day, in every way, Ellen counters what too often divides us with the countless things that bind us together, inspires us to be better, one joke, one dance at a time.
Then, he tied the medal around the teary-eyed comedian, gave her a kiss on the cheek and embraced her.
Other recipients include Diana Ross and Robert De Niro.
Watch the video of President Obama’s speech below.