Obama presents his final Medal of Freedom at star-studded event

U.S. President Barack Obama presents his final Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Nation’s highest civilian honor, to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Ellen DeGeneres, Robert De Niro, Bill and Melinda Gates, architect Frank Gehry, Tom Hanks, Michael Jordan, Robert Redford, Diana Ross, and Bruce Springsteen among others.

WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES (NOVEMBER 22, 2016) (RESTRICTED POOL) – In one of his final acts in office, President Barack Obama selected key figures in sports, entrepreneurship, philanthropy, activism, academia and entertainment among the 21 people awarded the 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian honor in the United States- on Tuesday (November 22).

In a star-studded ceremony at the East Room of the White House, Obama presented recipients including rocker Bruce Springsteen, Motown soul singer Diana Ross, former basketball champions Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and actors Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro and Robert Redford with the prestigious medal.

“These are folks who have helped make me who I am and think about my presidency and what also makes it special is – this is America and it’s useful when you think about this incredible collection of people to realize that this is what makes us the greatest nation on earth, not because of what our differences, but because in our difference we find something common to share,” Obama said.

The medal is given annually to people who have made outstanding contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

This year’s roster also included Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda for their philanthropic foundation, TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, veteran actress Cicely Tyson, architect Frank Gehry and baseball broadcaster Vin Scully.

The group also includes several not so well known Americans, such as late Native American community leader Elouise Cobell and NASA moon landing computer scientist Margaret H. Hamilton.

Obama leaves office in January after eight years, following the election of Republican businessman Donald Trump.