It was a star-studded day at the White House Tuesday as President Barack Obama made the final Congressional Medal of Freedom presentations of his term.
One of the most touching moments of the day came when the president gave a speech to medal recipient Ellen DeGeneres, who received the award for her pioneering spirit for LGBT rights.
“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,” Obama said after presenting the medal to her. “Just how important it was, not just for the LGBT community, but for all of us, to see somebody so full of kindness and light, somebody we liked so much, someone who could be our neighbor or our colleague or our sister challenge our own assumptions. Remind us that we have more in common than we realize. Push us 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.”
He continued, “And she did pay a price. We don’t remember this. She did, for a pretty long stretch of time. Even in Hollywood. And yet, today, every day, Ellen counters what too often divides us with the countless things that bind us together. She inspires us to be better, one joke, one dance at a time.”
Obama admitted to being choked up, and DeGeneres was visibly teary-eyed as the medal was being placed around her neck.
The moment was emotional for those who look up to DeGeneres too. Ellen Page, who came out in 2014 and appeared on DeGeneres’ show that year to thank her for paving the way for gay stars, tweeted her support soon after the ceremony.
“Thank you @TheEllenShow for everything you have done,” she wrote on Twitter, along with a rainbow and two heart emojis.
— Ellen Page (@EllenPage) November 23, 2016
Other recipients included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elouise Cobell (posthumous), 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 and Cicely Tyson.
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