Ellen DeGeneres gets emotional receiving Presidential Medal of Freedom

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Ellen DeGeneres was one of 21 recipients honored Tuesday with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a prestigious award granted to individuals who have contributed to notable change and progress in the United States.

A White House aide summarized DeGeneres's defining career, noting her courage in coming out during a time when marriage equality was not prevalent in the U.S., which aided the progress of LGBT equality.

"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," he said. He continued, "At a pivotal moment, her courage and candor helped change the hearts and minds of million of Americans, accelerating our nations constant drive towards equality and acceptance for all."

PHOTOS: Ellen Degeneres breaks down in tears

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Ellen accepts Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama
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Ellen accepts Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 22: Comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres wipes away tears as her citation is read before being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by U.S. President Barack Obama during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House November 22, 2016 in Washington, DC. Obama presented the medal to 19 living and two posthumous pioneers in science, sports, public service, human rights, politics and the arts. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 22: Comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres listens as her citation is read before being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by U.S. President Barack Obama during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House November 22, 2016 in Washington, DC. Obama presented the medal to 19 living and two posthumous pioneers in science, sports, public service, human rights, politics and the arts. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 22: U.S. President Barack Obama awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House November 22, 2016 in Washington, DC. Obama presented the medal to 19 living and two posthumous pioneers in science, sports, public service, human rights, politics and the arts. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama presents actress and comedian Ellen DeGeneres with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, during a ceremony honoring 21 recipients, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, November 22, 2016. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 22: Comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres wipes tears as actor Robert De Niro looks on during a Presidential Medal of Freedom presentation ceremony at the White House November 22, 2016 in Washington, DC. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest honor for civilians in the United States of America. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 22: Comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres wipes tears during a Presidential Medal of Freedom presentation ceremony at the East Room of the White House November 22, 2016 in Washington, DC. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest honor for civilians in the United States of America. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama presents actress and comedian Ellen DeGeneres with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, during a ceremony honoring 21 recipients, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, November 22, 2016. / AFP / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Actress and comedian Ellen DeGeneres (L) cries afeter US President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, during a ceremony honoring 21 recipients, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, November 22, 2016. / AFP / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama presents actress and comedian Ellen DeGeneres with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, during a ceremony honoring 21 recipients, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, November 22, 2016. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 22: Actor Robert De Niro and comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres share a moment during a Presidential Medal of Freedom presentation ceremony at the White House November 22, 2016 in Washington, DC. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest honor for civilians in the United States of America. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 22: Actor Robert De Niro celebrates as comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres looks on during a Presidential Medal of Freedom presentation ceremony at the White House November 22, 2016 in Washington, DC. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest honor for civilians in the United States of America. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 22: Comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres leaves an East Room ceremony where she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House November 22, 2016 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Barack Obama presented the medal to 19 living and two posthumous pioneers in science, sports, public service, human rights, politics and the arts. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Comedian Ellen DeGeneres leaves after US President Barack Obama presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, during a ceremony honoring 21 recipients, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, November 22, 2016. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 22: Comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres wipes tears during a Presidential Medal of Freedom presentation ceremony at the White House November 22, 2016 in Washington, DC. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest honor for civilians in the United States of America. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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The aide referenced DeGeneres's well-known role as Dory in Finding Nemo as a way in which she has encouraged further progress through her activism.

"Ellen DeGeneres has showed us that a single individual can make the world a more fun, more open more loving place, so long as we just keep swimming," he said.

As President Obama bestowed DeGeneres with the medal, the comedian teared up, after Obama made a statement about DeGeneres's extensive efforts towards not only the LGBT community, but also to the nation as a whole.

"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," President Obama said. "Just how important it was. Not just to the LGBT community, but for all of us."

He continued, "Ellen counters what too often divides us, with the countless things that bind us together, inspires us to be better, one joke, one dance at a time."

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest honor a civilian can receive, and recognizes individuals who have made contributions to world peace, culture or other national interests of the United States. This year's honorees include Bruce Springsteen, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Michael Jordan, Bill and Melinda Gates, Tom Hanks, Vin Scully and notable others.

PHOTOS: More stars get their honors

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President Obama hands out Presidential Medal of Freedom
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President Obama hands out Presidential Medal of Freedom
U.S. President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to singer Diana Ross during a ceremony in the White House East Room in Washington, U.S., November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Melinda and Bill Gates during a ceremony in the White House East Room in Washington, U.S., November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to actor Robert Redford during a ceremony in the White House East Room in Washington, U.S., November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Saturday Night Live creator and producer Lorne Michaels (C) during a ceremony in the White House East Room in Washington, U.S., November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Barack Obama assists actress Cicely Tyson on stage during the Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. President Barack Obama awards artist and designer Maya Lin (C) the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to physicist Ricahrd Garvin during a ceremony in the White House East Room in Washington, U.S., November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Musician Bruce Springsteen (L) receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from U.S. President Barack Obama during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
CAPTION CORRECTION CORRECTING NAME OF RECIPIENT U.S. President Barack Obama awards attorney Newt Minow (R) the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to physicist Ricahrd Garvin during a ceremony in the White House East Room in Washington, U.S., November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to actor Robert Redford during a ceremony in the White House East Room in Washington, U.S., November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. President Barack Obama greets actor Robert De Niro before presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to De Niro during a ceremony in the White House East Room in Washington, U.S., November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Singer Diana Ross is hugged by U.S. President Barack Obama before he awards her a Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony in the White House East Room in Washington, U.S., November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
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Black-ish star Tracee Ellis Ross shared a video on Twitter featuring the recipients doing the Mannequin Challenge in the White House. Ellis Ross was in attendance to support her mother, Diana Ross, another recipient of the award.

"Look what I got everyone to do! It's #TheMannequinChallenge at the @WhiteHouse!, the actress posted. "I'm in the pink dress laughing with @RitaWilson!"

Watch Ellen's emotional video above or click here.


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