US President Barack Obama has handed out his last Medals of Freedom, in one of his final acts in office, during a ceremony at the White House.
21 Americans from divers fields – sports, entrepreneurship, philanthropy, entertainment, academia, activism and the arts were presented with the 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour in the United States.
The recipients included rock star Bruce Springsteen, Motown soul singer Diana Ross, actors Tom Hanks and Robert De Niro as well as basketball legends Micheal Jordon and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda were also honored for their philanthropic work.
Obama said each of the recipients had touched him in a very powerful and personal way.
“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,” the outgoing president 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.
The list also included TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, veteran actress Cicely Tyson, NASA moon landing computer scientist Margaret H. Hamilton and some other not so famous Americans.
Ellen DeGeneres, who was lauded by president Obama for her work on gay rights, later posted a video of the A-list stars in a ‘Mannequin challenge’ at the White House.
Obama leaves office in January after eight years, following the election of Republican businessman Donald Trump.