"In a career spanning three decades, Ellen DeGeneres has lifted our spirits and brought joy to our lives as a stand-up comic, actor, and television star,” her introduction said.
“In every role, she reminds us to be kind to one another, and to treat people as each of us wants to be treated. At a pivotal moment, her courage and candor helped change the hearts and minds of millions of Americans, accelerating our nation's constant drive for equality and acceptance for all.
“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 award honours individuals who work to make the country better. The ceremony marked the outgoing President’s final ceremony of its kind.
“All of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better," he explained during his speech.
“It’s useful, when you think about this incredible collection of people, to realise this is what makes us the greatest nation on Earth,” he added.
“Not because of our differences, but because in our differences we find something in common to share. And what a glorious gift that is.”