Talk show host and gay icon Ellen Degeneres was left in tears this week when President Obama paid a visit to show, and lavished the host with heartfelt thanks and praise for all that she has done for LGBT rights and awareness.
The interview began with Degeneres thanking the President for his role in repealing the controversial Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy for LGBT military personnel and his advocacy for marriage equality, but it was Obama who felt like he should be the one saying thank you!
“As much as we’ve done with laws and ending ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ et cetera, changing hearts and minds”, Obama said, “I don’t think anybody has been more influential than you on that. I really mean that.”
Obama went on to cite Degeneres’ brave decision to risk her career by coming out publicly in 1997 as a watershed moment for LGBT Americans.
“You being willing to claim who you were, that suddenly empowers other people,” the President said. “And then suddenly, it’s your brother, it’s your uncle, it’s your best friend, it’s your coworkers. And then attitudes shift. And the law is followed, but it started with folks like you. I’m so proud of you.”
Degeneres appeared clearly emotional listening to the President’s kind words but ever the comedian, the host couldn’t help but to respond with a joke.
“Well, thank you,” she said, “I’m not really gay… I just thought it would work (on television) and I’ve had to stick with it, because people were responding”.