Television host Ellen DeGeneres was teary eyed as she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom Monday.
President Obama calls DeGeneres’ decision to come out of the closet as “groundbreaking.” He recognized its importance, not only to the LGBT community but for everyone, CBS reports.
DeGeneres Gay Admission Took Courage
“It’s easy to forget just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages almost 20 years ago,” Obama said.
The introduction by a White House aide apparently moved DeGeneres. The aide commended her courage in paving the way for LGBTQ equality.
“At a pivotal moment, her courage and candor helped change the hearts and minds of millions of Americans,” the aide said. Significantly, her admission hastened the country’s “constant drive toward equality and acceptance for all.”
Finding Nemo Role, Talk Show Revive Career
She first admitted she is gay last February 1997 on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Years later, DeGeneres said she faced a backlash from her coming out. The uproar over her admission had overshadowed her talent, she said. She found her career at its lowest point.
However, she revived her career in 2003 through her role as Dory in Finding Nemo and the premiere of her daytime talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
President Obama presented on Tuesday his last Presidential Medals of Freedom to 21 artists, sports figures, scientists, and philanthropists.
The honorees also include Bill and Melinda Gates, basketball stars Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, actors Robert Redford and Tom Hanks, and singer Diana Ross.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the country’s highest civilian honor. The President bestows this award to individuals who made meritorious contributions to the US. The awardees security and national interests; world peace, or cultural and other significant public or private endeavors.