'You made me who I am,' Obama tells stars as they get top civilian honour
Chat-show host Ellen DeGeneres broke down in tears as she received America's highest civilian honour yesterday.
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.
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.
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.