US President Barack Obama has praised comedian and TV personality Ellen DeGeneres for being a huge influence on the gay rights movement. Ellen was rewarded the country's highest civilian honour Presidential Medal of Freedom on Tuesday.
Ellen was one of the 21 recipients of the honour. The medal is given to personalities for their contribution to notable change and progress in the country. Along with Ellen, names like Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro and Michael Jordan were also awarded.
The outgoing President said Ellen put herself at risk when she came out in 1997. He added that her brave step pushed the country towards the direction of justice, reported a daily.
On receiving the award, Ellen got emotional so much so that Robert De Niro had to calm her, later. Even Obama choked up as he awarded DeGeneres.
"It's easy to forget now, when we've come so far... just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages almost 20 years ago," Obama said during the award ceremony at the White House.
He added: "What an incredible burden that was to bear - to risk your career like that - people don't do that very often. And then, to have the hopes of millions on your shoulders."
(With IANS Inputs)