The tears came as she stood side-by-side with the president and her achievements were described by a White House aide: “At a pivotal moment, her courage and candor helped changed the minds of millions of Americans, accelerating our nations constant drive toward equality and acceptance for all.”
DeGeneres’ tears became pronounced as the speaker continued. At one point during the speech, the president looked at her and stroked her arm.
“Again and again, Ellen DeGeneres has shown us that a single individual can make the world a more fun, more open, more loving place — so long as we just keep swimming,” the aide concluded.
The 58-year-old shared a look and smile with Obama, a regular guest on her talk show, before he hung the medal around her neck.
After she accepted the honor, she also received a hug and kiss on the cheek from Obama before returning to her seat next to De Niro.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest honor a civilian can receive, recognizing extraordinary contributions to world peace, culture and other national interests.
The 2016 honorees included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill and Melinda Gates, Robert Redford, Lorne Michaels, and Bruce Springsteen among others.
The host of the Ellen Show almost didn’t make it to the ceremony because she forgot her ID and was denied entry.
DeGeneres took to Twitter to write, “They haven’t let me in to the White House yet because I forgot my ID. #NotJoking.”
She was quickly saved, however, writing on social media: “I’m in!” and, later, posting on Twitter again to write, “.@POTUS Barack Obama just awarded me the#MedalofFreedom. I hope it serves as an ID. I have no idea how I’m getting home.”