Ellen DeGeneres could not be more thankful this holiday season.
The 58-year-old comedian was honoured last week with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honour, and took time on Tuesday to reflect about the experience during a taping of her show.
“I don’t know if you heard, but last week I received the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” she said to a cheering audience. “Thank you. Thank you. I hope your Thanksgiving was good. That was my Thanksgiving; it was probably my best one ever in my entire life.”
“I’ve known this for about a month, that I was going to get it, but I couldn’t say anything because it was top secret and I couldn’t let that fall into the hands of the Russians,” she joked.
DeGeneres was among 21 actors, musicians, athletes and innovators who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, during a ceremony that took place in the White House’s East Room. But, getting into the ceremony proved to be a bit of a challenge.
“We fly across country and the driver takes us to the White House and Portia [de Rossi] and I are walking, the White House isn’t on the curb, it’s pretty far back. And so Portia and I are walking with the person that’s handling us, I had a handler, and we’re like midway, almost there and she just turns to me and she goes, ‘You have your ID, right?’ And I was like, ‘No. No I don’t have my ID.’ She’s like, ‘No you…’ and she thought I was kidding,” she explained.
“I was like, ‘Why would I need… I’m getting the Medal of Freedom. I didn’t think I needed…’ So, anyway, she’s like, ‘We know who you are, we just can’t let you in without ID.’ So I’m sitting on a bench, out in the middle of, by the White House trying to figure out how I was gonna get in,” she continued. “And it was freezing by the way because I thought I was just going from the car into the White House, so I didn’t bring a jacket — it was like 60 degrees, you guys. And all the honourees are passing me. Bruce Springsteen and [wife] Patti are passing me and they’re like, ‘How do you not bring ID to the White House?’ And I was like, ‘This is my ID, Bruce. This is my ID.'”
Portia then decided to tweet out a photo of DeGeneres sitting on the bench.
“After it was viewed by millions of people in about five minutes, someone came out and went, ‘You can come in now.’ I was causing a fuss,” DeGeneres added.
Video of DeGeneres in tears during the medal presentation with Obama also went viral. “The ceremony was incredible,” she gushed. “If you haven’t seen what President Obama said, go to our website, it was beautiful. I don’t even know how to express in words how honed I felt getting that from the President of the United States, who I love so very much, so how I will express it is …I will express my gratitude with a dance.”