On Tuesday, President Barack Obama honored 21 artists, athletes, activists, and more at the White House, presenting each of them with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Among those recipients was Ellen DeGeneres, who teared up while receiving the honor.
As Obama embraced DeGeneres and presented her with her medal, the comedian and Ellen Show host teared up, and when a White House aide introduced her, he cited her decades of activism and contributions to pop culture, even referencing her beloved role in Finding Nemo: “Again and again, Ellen DeGeneres has shown us that a single individual can make the world a more fun, more open, more loving place — so long as we just keep swimming.”
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest honor a civilian can receive, recognizing extraordinary contributions to world peace, culture, or other national interests. This year’s honorees included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tom Hanks, Michael Jordon, Robert De Niro, Bill and Melinda Gates, Robert Redford, Lorne Michaels, Diana Ross, Bring Springsteen, Vin Scully, and Cicely Tyson. Black-ish star Tracee Ellis Ross, who was there to support her mother, also shared a video of the recipients posing for the Mannequin Challenge.
Earlier in the day, DeGeneres tweeted a forlorn photo from outside the White House, writing that she forgot her ID and security wouldn’t let her in. Later, she shared a selfie with her wife, Portia de Rossi, and her new medal, adding, “I hope it serves as an ID. I have no idea how I’m getting home.”
See video for the full ceremony below.