During President Obama’s last event at the White House, several celebrities were honored for their contribution to and promotion of the United States’ national interests. Famous talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres, alongside her fellow stars, was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It is the highest honor that may be awarded to a civilian, and as Ellen’s fans would agree, well-deserved.
“Throughout a three-decade career,” the commentator began, “Ellen DeGeneres has become famous for bringing joy to others, through comedy, acting, and hosting. Whatever her role, she encourages her audience to be kind and to treat each other with dignity and respect. At a critical moment in both her career and life, her courage struck the hearts of Americans everywhere.” Although she faced challenges after outing herself as a lesbian, Ellen’s courage inspired millions and reminded the nation of its own need to always move forward. In perhaps her most memorable role as Dory from Finding Nemo, Ellen encourages us to “just keep swimming.”
President Obama admired Ellen’s remarkable journey and her resilience during difficult times. Throughout these challenges, armed with kindness and humor, she has risen to the top and continued to transform the nation. Obama noted that these people being awarded, such as Ellen, are reminders of what a president should strive to be. “With these medals,” he said, “we commemorate the outstanding Americans who have pushed the nation to advance.”
When he awarded Tom Hanks his medal, Obama described him as “America’s dad.” In his career and in each role he portrays, Hanks has personified America’s aspirations as a country. “He’s the kind of role model we need,” according to Obama. Among the other stars awarded were Robert De Niro, Diana Ross, Robert Redford, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Vin Scully, and even Michael Jordan. Each one has made an impact on the nation and proven worthy of their fans. Just as Ellen DeGeneres has continually shown us, even a single person can change the world for the better.