VP Joe Biden has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest US civilian honor.
President Barack Obama praised Joe Biden for his “faith in your fellow Americans, for your love of country and your lifetime of service”.
The award comes as both men prepare to leave office when Donald Trump is inaugurated on January 20.
The vice-president has said he plans to stay active in Democratic Party politics.
A visibly emotional Joe Biden stood by as President Obama heaped praise on what he called the “best possible choice, not just for me, but for the American people”.
According to the New York Times, the medal was awarded with distinction.
Image source NBC News
That additional honor has been reserved in recent administrations for just a handful of recipients, including Pope John Paul II.
Barack Obama joked that the internet would have one last chance to mock the pair’s “bromance”.
Joe Biden said he was “part of the journey of a remarkable man who did remarkable things”.
The vice-president said that he had had no idea the award was coming.
“I had no inkling. I thought we were coming over to Michelle for you, Jill and Barack and I and a couple of senior staff to toast one another and say what an incredible journey it’s been.
“Mr. President, you got right the part about my leaning on Jill but I’ve also leaned on you and a lot of people in this room.
“Mr. President, I’m indebted to you. I’m indebted to your friendship. I’m indebted to your family.”
Barack Obama said that Joe Biden’s career was “nowhere close to finished” both at home or abroad.
The vice-president has said he plans to work on policy issues at institutes at the University of Delaware and University of Pennsylvania, and continue his efforts tackling cancer, which claimed his son Beau in 2015.
Joe Biden gave an hour-long interview with media outlets on January 12 in which he strongly criticized Donald Trump for his condemnation of the US intelligence services.
“It is really very damaging in my view to our standing in the world for a president to take one of the crown jewels of our national defense and denigrate it,” he said.
“It plays into, particularly now, the Russian narrative that America doesn’t know what it’s doing.”
However, Joe Biden was full of praise for his successor, Mike Pence, saying he had sent him memos on how to handle certain situations.
Ellen DeGeneres was praised by President Barack Obama for her influence on the gay rights movement as she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Other celebrities including Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro and Michael Jordan were also among the 21 recipients of the country’s highest civilian honor.
President Obama said it was easy to forget the risk Ellen DeGeneres took to come out as gay in 1997.
During the award ceremony at the White House, he said Ellen DeGeneres’ bravery helped “push our country in the direction of justice”.
“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,” President Obama said.
“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.”
The Presidential Medal of Freedom, which recognizes contributions to United States culture, security and international interests, is the highest honor a civilian can receive, alongside the Congressional Gold Medal, a similar accolade awarded by the US Congress.
“These are folks who have helped make me who I am,” Barack Obama said.
“Everybody on this stage has touched me in a very powerful, personal way, in ways that they probably couldn’t imagine.”
Honorees from the entertainment world included Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro, Robert Redford and Cicely Tyson, as well as musicians Bruce Springsteen and Diana Ross.
From the sporting world, former basketball superstars Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan were awarded the medal, alongside sports broadcaster Vin Scully.
Bill and Melinda Gates were awarded for their philanthropic work through their charitable foundation.
Despite Barack Obama’s words on the contribution Ellen DeGeneres made to the country, she almost missed the ceremony after security refused to let her in to the White House.
Ellen DeGeneres tweeted alongside a photo of herself sitting on a nearby park bench: “They haven’t let me in to the White House yet because I forgot my ID.”
Ellen DeGeneres and other stars are set to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest US civilian honor.
The medal recognizes people who have made “especially meritorious contributions” to the United States, the White House said.
President Barack Obama will honor the 21 people at a ceremony on November 22.
The president said the medal was 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.”
Bruce Springsteen, Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro, Diana Ross and Robert Redford are among the other honorees from the entertainment world.
Bill and Melinda Gates and SNL producer Lorne Michaels will also be recognized.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded to people who have contributed to the security or national interests of the US, the White House said.
It also rewards people who have contributed to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
Honorees from the sports world include basketball players Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, along with veteran sports broadcaster Vin Scully.
Architect Frank Gehry, attorney Newt Minow, designer Maya Lin, polymath physicist Richard Garwin, mathematician and computer scientist Margaret H. Hamilton and Eduardo Padron, and president of Miami Dade College in Florida will also receive the medal.
Posthumous honors will go to Native American advocate Elouise Cobell and Rear Admiral Grace Hopper.
President Barack Obama paid tribute to the legacy of the past and the politics of the present by awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the nation’s highest civilian honor – to 16 people.
Among those receiving Presidential Medal of Freedom in Wednesday ceremony are former President Bill Clinton, iconic talk show host Oprah Winfrey and late astronaut Sally Ride.
Barack also paid tribute to the memory of President John F. Kennedy.
“This is one of my favorite events every year,” said Barack Obama.
“This year it’s just a little more special, because this marks the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy establishing this award.”
Former President Bill Clinton was among those receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom
Barack Obama noted that members of the Kennedy clan were in attendance: Robert Kennedy’s widow, Ethel Kennedy, and JFK’s grandson and son of Caroline Kennedy, Jack Schlossberg.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is “presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors,” says the White House.
Later in the day, presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton – and first ladies Michelle Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton – pay another tribute to JFK with a visit to his grave site at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
The Obamas and Clintons will lay a wreath near the eternal flame that marks JFK’s final resting place.
The 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination is Friday, November 22.
Barack Obama will again speak about JFK’s legacy during a dinner for the Medal of Freedom honorees at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
President Barack Obama will visit JFK’s grave on November 20 in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the former president’s assassination, the White House has announced.
Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will be joined by their predecessors former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton at a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Ceremony Wednesday afternoon, as first reported by the Associated Press.
The actual anniversary falls on Friday.
Barack Obama will also be honoring one of John F. Kennedy’s last initiatives, presenting this year’s awards for the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Wednesday, the highest civilian awarded by the US.
Former prominent recipients of the medal will join the president in a tribute to JFK, who established the modern version of the medal months before his death.
This year also marks the 50th anniversary that President John F. Kennedy signed the Executive Order establishing the medal.
Barack Obama will visit JFK’s grave on November 20 in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the former president’s assassination
JFK was assassinated just two weeks before he could honor the award’s first recipients. Since then, more than 500 people have been given the award, according to the White House.
The medal is presented to those who have made “especially meritorious” contributions to the security or national interests of the US, to world peace, or cultural and other public and private endeavors, according to the White House.
“The Presidential Medal of Freedom goes to men and women who have dedicated their own lives to enriching ours. This year’s honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world,” Barack Obama said in a White House statement announcing this year’s recipients in August.
“It will be my honor to present them with a token of our nation’s gratitude.”
This year, Barack Obama named 16 recipients for the award from the worlds of politics and science to the worlds of music and sports. Those to be honored include Bill Clinton, women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem, Oprah Winfrey, the late American female astronaut Sally Ride, country singer Loretta Lynn and Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks.
Barack Obama has planned a speech on JFK’s legacy of service at the Smithsonian American History Museum at a dinner with former medal recipients including astronaut Buzz Aldrin, singer Aretha Franklin and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
He will also meet privately on Friday at the White House with leaders and members of the Peace Corps, another program President John F. Kennedy established.
The Peace Corps dates back to 1960, when JFK, then a senator, called on students at the University of Michigan to serve two years in volunteer service to help people in countries of the developing world, according to the Peace Corps web site.
Within weeks of his inauguration as president, JFK signed an Executive Order to establish the Peace Corps on a temporary pilot basis in March 1961. Since then, more than 210,000 Peace Corps volunteers have served in 139 countries working on issues ranging from health and education to environmental preservation.