Ellen DeGeneres received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama on Tuesday.


The comedian was in rare form, as she teared up during her introduction speech and ceremony. DeGeneres was honored for her influence on LGBT rights, and was one of 21 recipients of the prestigious award yesterday.

“In a career spanning three decades, Ellen DeGeneres has lifted our spirits and brought joy to our lives as a stand-up comic, actor and television star,” said the White House aide who introduced her. “At a pivotal moment, her courage and candor helped change the hearts and minds of millions of Americans, accelerating our nation’s constant drive toward equality and acceptance for all. Ellen DeGeneres has showed us that a single individual can make the world a more fun, more open, more loving place, so long as we just keep swimming.”

Obama then bestowed the 58-year-old with her medal as she fought to hold back tears.

“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 explained. “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, somebody 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 our country in the direction of justice. What an incredible burden it was to bear, to risk your career like that. People don’t do that often.”

When the President himself started to get choked up, he broke the tension with a quip from DeGeneres herself. “It’s like Ellen says: ‘We all want a tortilla chip that can support the weight of guacamole,’ which really makes no sense to me, but I thought it would break the mood because I was getting kind of choked up.”

Before the ceremony, DeGeneres was met with an issue because she forgot her ID and officials would not let her into the White House. But everything worked itself out, and DeGeneres received her medal. Among other honorees present were Robert De NiroTom HanksDiana RossMichael Jordan and Bruce Springsteen.

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