Saturday 21 January 2017

'You made me who I am,' Obama tells stars as they get top civilian honour

Kevin Freking

Published 23/11/2016 | 02:30

Tom hanks receives his medal. Photo: Reuters
Tom hanks receives his medal. Photo: Reuters

Chat-show host Ellen DeGeneres broke down in tears as she received America's highest civilian honour yesterday.

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The comedian was among 21 ground-breaking actors, sports stars and musicians chosen by the US President Barack Obama to be honoured, including Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro, Bruce Springsteen and Diana Ross.

US President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. Photo: Reuters
US President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. Photo: Reuters

Presenting his final Presidential Medal of Freedom awards, Mr Obama hailed the nominees as inspirations to millions around the world. Mr Obama said: "Everybody on this stage has touched me in a very powerful, very personal way. These are folks who have helped make me who I am."

Among those being honoured were actors Hanks, De Niro, Robert Redford and Cicely Tyson.

Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, two of the best basketball players ever, were also among the honourees.

Springsteen and Ross were recognised for their music, while other honourees included philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates and broadcaster Vin Scully.

President Obama presents the Medal of Freedom to NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
President Obama presents the Medal of Freedom to NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Mr Obama said the people receiving the medal helped push America forward and inspired millions around the world.

The award recognises especially meritorious contributions to the national interests of the United States, to its culture, or to other significant endeavours.

Posthumous honours went to Native American advocate Elouise Cobell and Rear Adm Grace Hopper.

U.S. Presient Barack Obama smiles at retired NBA basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan (L) before awarding Jordan the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony in the White House East Room
U.S. Presient Barack Obama smiles at retired NBA basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan (L) before awarding Jordan the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony in the White House East Room
Bruce Springteen receives his medal from the president. Photo: Reuters
Bruce Springteen receives his medal from the president. Photo: Reuters
Barack Obama greets actor Robert De Niro before presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to De Niro during a ceremony in the White House
Barack Obama greets actor Robert De Niro before presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to De Niro during a ceremony in the White House
Singer Diana Ross is hugged by U.S. President Barack Obama
Singer Diana Ross is hugged by U.S. President Barack Obama

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