Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Barack Obama honours Ellen DeGeneres for her bravery in emotional ceremony

ellen degeneres speech.jpg

In an emotionally charged ceremony, President Barack Obama has awarded Ellen DeGeneres America’s highest civilian honour – admitting he “choked up” handing out one of his last Medals of Freedom.

During the event Tuesday night (22 November) Obama, who will be leaving the White House in 2017, praised the comedian, actor and TV host for coming out as gay in 1997, despite the risk it posed to her career at the time – emphasising that her bravery was important not just for the LGBTQ community but for the entire United States of America as it helped to “push our country in the direction of justice.”


Read more: Ellen DeGeneres shares her advice for all aspiring comedians


“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,” he said.

“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 neighbour, or our colleague, or our sister, challenge our own assumptions.

“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.”

“It's like Ellen says, we all want a tortilla chip that can support the weight of guacamole...” he added, to laughter from the crowd. “Which really makes no sense to me, but I thought would break the mood because I was getting kind of choked up.”

He wasn’t the only one; DeGeneres was clearly moved by his words, tearing up as he placed her medal around her neck.


Read more: Ellen DeGeneres reveals the secret to a happy marriage


DeGeneres, now one of the world’s most beloved chat show hosts and TV personalities, suffered a heavy backlash after she publicly came out in 1997. Her sitcom, Ellen, was cancelled, and she found herself unable to find a job for several years – which led to her suffering from depression.

Disney’s Pixar then offered her the role of Dory in Finding Nemo, which she has credited with enabling her to rebuild her career, making it bigger, brighter, and bolder than ever; she is now watched by 15 million people each week on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Despite the momentousness of the occasion, however, DeGeneres still displayed her trademark humour as she waited to be honoured by POTUS. Posing outside on a bench, she wrote on Twitter: “They haven't let me in to the White House yet because I forgot my ID.”

She added: “Not joking.”

Thankfully, however, the situation was resolved – and she later posed for a selfie with her proud wife Portia de Rossi.

“Barack Obama just awarded me the Medal of Freedom,” she wrote. “I hope it serves as an ID. I have no idea how I’m getting home.”


Read more: Watch Ellen DeGeneres and Britney Spears exploit their ‘celebrity status’


DeGeneres and the likes of Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro, Diana Ross and Michael Jordan were especially chosen by Obama for his final Medals of Freedom.

“These are folks who have helped make me who I am,” he said.

“Everybody on this stage has touched me in a very powerful, personal way, in ways that they probably couldn't imagine.”

DeGeneres took advantage of the famous faces gathered in one place, staging an epic #MannequinChallenge video (above) from inside the White House.

Images: Rex Pictures

Related

rexfeatures_5754280k.jpg

Ellen DeGeneres reveals the secret to her happy marriage

funny-women-winners.jpg

The Funny Women Awards: meet your newest comedy crushes

ellen-degeneres.JPG

Ellen DeGeneres shares her advice for aspiring female stand-ups

More

The best A-list Instagrams from the weekend

From Lupita Nyong’o’s chilled afternoon to Serena Williams’ girls’ night out

by Nicola Colyer
21 Aug 2017

UKIP candidate suggests paying British Indians to leave the UK

And Twitter responds perfectly

by Moya Crockett
21 Aug 2017

Elisabeth Moss denies that Scientology is anything like Gilead

The Handmaid’s Tale star discusses the parallels between her show and her faith.

by Moya Crockett
21 Aug 2017

JK Rowling spots mansplainer in the wild, and deals with him perfectly

The Harry Potter author won’t let any woman’s confidence be knocked by mansplaining

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Aug 2017

The best A-list Instagrams from the week so far

From Nicki Minaj’s vintage look to a Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants reunion

by Nicola Colyer
18 Aug 2017

Chris Brown tried to excuse his attack on Rihanna, and it’s not OK

“Violence is a choice he made – and he alone is responsible for it”

by Kayleigh Dray
17 Aug 2017

Serena Williams on how skin colour affects what people think of her

“I feel like people think I’m mean”

by Amy Swales
17 Aug 2017

This Hocus Pocus star’s pregnancy announcement is pure 90s perfection

“I smell children…”

by Kayleigh Dray
17 Aug 2017

Anna Faris on knowing when to call time on an unhappy relationship

“Don’t be afraid to seek your independence”

by Kayleigh Dray
17 Aug 2017

Why Taylor Swift’s sexual assault verdict is a victory for womankind

The pop star has completely changed the narrative

by Kayleigh Dray
16 Aug 2017