In one of his final acts in office, US President Barack Obama bestowed the prestigious 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour in the country, on an array of American icons on Tuesday.
Among those who received the medal were rocker Bruce Springsteen, Motown soul singer Diana Ross, former basketball champions Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, actors Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro and Robert Redford, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, his wife Melinda Gates, and TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.
DeGeneres choked up as she listened to Obama talking about her career and her decision to come out of the closet.
“It's easy to forget now when we’ve come so far, where now marriage is equal under the law, just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages almost 20 years ago,” Obama said.
The medal is given annually to people who have made outstanding contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavours.
(With inputs from Reuters and NBC News.)