Ellen DeGeneres and Tom Hanks among stars to receive the highest US civilian honour from Barack Obama

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded to "individuals who have helped push America forward"

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Barack Obama has named Ellen DeGeneres and Tom Hanks among the 21 people to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, described by the President as the “nation’s highest civilian honour”.

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Obama said that the medal is “a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better.  From scientists, philanthropists, and public servants to activists, athletes, and artists, these 21 individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way.” 

Comedian and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres will receive the accolade for being “a passionate advocate for equality and fairness” throughout her life and career. The White House also notes, importantly, that she “lent her voice to a forgetful but unforgettable little fish named Dory in Finding Nemo.” 

Tom Hanks, as one of the nation’s “finest actors” who has left an “indelible mark” on American film thanks to classics such as Forrest Gump, will receive the award too, and the White House notes his advocation for “social and environmental justice, and for our veterans and their families”.

Robert De Niro and Robert Redford were also named as recipients, as well as Diana Ross whose “greatest legacy is her five wonderful children” according to the White House report.

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The awards will be presented at the White House on 22 November and will be streamed live at www.whitehouse.gov/live