Last night, Ellen DeGeneres was one of the many outstanding individuals—from Tom Hanks to Bill Gates—who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S. As President Barack Obama introduced and bestowed a medal upon the lovable TV host, she couldn’t hold back her tears. Even the president got choked up. (See if you can make it through these photos without tearing up yourself.)
“Ellen DeGeneres has a way of making a laugh about something, rather than at someone—except when I danced on her show,” President Obama joked before presenting DeGeneres with her award. Though many may know her as the bubbly host (and lead dancer) of her daytime talk show, the president reminded us that what truly makes her honorable was her bravery to come out as gay 20 years ago, acting as a trailblazer and inspiration for the LGBT community.
POTUS continued “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 we have more in common than 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. But 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 ’cause I was getting kind of choked up.
And she did pay a price. We don’t remember this. I hadn’t remembered it. She did, for a pretty long stretch of time, even in Hollywood. And yet 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.”
Never stop being you, Ellen. Watch the full speech below.
From: Harper’s BAZAAR US