According to Essence, the 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom Honorees were completely humbled to be receiving the coveted award from President Obama, but it turns out he was just as big of a fan of each of them. A total of 21 recipients were honored during the official award ceremony at the White House on Tuesday afternoon and this year's pool of icons seemed particularly special to the POTUS. Entertainer extraordinaire and style icon Diana Ross was among the 2016 honorees and President Obama couldn't quite contain his excitement as she walked up to receive her medal.
Not that we can blame him, of course! "Along with her honey voice and soulful sensibility, Diana exuded glamour and grace and filled stages that help to shape the sound of Motown," the president said. "Today, from the hip-hop that samples her, to the young singers who have been inspired by her, to the audiences that still cannot get enough of her, Diana' Ross's influence is as inescapable as ever."
Also honored was legendary actress and activist Cicely Tyson. "In her long and extraordinary career, Cicely Tyson has not only exceeded as an actor, she has shaped the course of history," Obama said. The President also spoke about Tyson's tireless fight for representation of women and African-Americans in Hollywood, noting how she stated early on in her career that she would not accept roles unless they projected in women "in a realistic light and dealt with us as human beings." The crowd applauded in unison as he later added, "and she's just gorgeous."
Other notable honorees included Michael Jordan, Ellen, Kareem Abdul Jabar, Robert DeNiro and Tom Hanks, to name just a few. Watch President Obama speak about each of the deserving recipients individually in the video clip below.