Oprah Winfrey received the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Wednesday, the highest U.S. civilian award. In a ceremony honoring President John F. Kennedy, who was assasinated 50 years ago this week, President Obama awarded Winfrey, along with President Bill Clinton, activist Gloria Steinem, country music star Loretta Lynn, iconic Chicago Cubs shortstop Ernie Banks, and more.
Speaking of Winfrey's extraordinary contributions, President Obama said, "Oprah's greatest strength has always been her ability to help us discover the best in ourselves." He joked about previous employers who told Winfrey to change her name, saying that he also received similar suggestions over the years.
He added, "In more than 4,500 episodes of [Oprah's] show, the message was always, 'You can. You can do, and you can be, and you can grow, and it can be better—and she was living proof, rising from a childhood of poverty and abuse to the pinnacle of the entertainment universe.