4 memorable moments from star-studded Medal of Freedom ceremony

President Obama awarded 21 people the nation's highest civilian honor during a ceremony at the White House on Tuesday (Mark Meredith, Media General)
President Obama awarded 21 people the nation's highest civilian honor during a ceremony at the White House on Tuesday (Mark Meredith, Media General)

WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) — In a country rich with diversity, opinion, and talent, today’s winners of the nation’s Presidential Medal of Freedom highlighted some of the most influential and creative Americans of the last several decades.

Here’s a look at the top 4 most memorable moments from the Tuesday’s ceremony. For the full list of recipients, click here

1) Comedian in Chief

President Obama at the White House

With less than two months to go until leaving office, it was obvious President Obama was enjoying one of the biggest perks of the job: the bully pulpit. For over an hour, President Obama highlighted the accomplishments of 21 recipients of the nation’s highest civilian honor. Mr. Obama couldn’t help but poke fun of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s legendary status as “Airplane” co-pilot Roger Murdock, Tom Hanks’ ability to fall in love with Meg Ryan three times and Robert De Niro’s constant role as a mafia boss.

2) A hero for everyone

Award recipients listen as President Obama speaks at the White House

Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, Robert Redford: the three names are synonymous with the the best in business, sports, and Hollywood. For a rare joint-appearanc –the three pillars of their industries shared the same stage. The mood was celebratory and a rare sight of a gathering of several American heroes. The audience couldn’t help but take as many photos as possible from the East Room of the event unlike any other.

3) Not everyone on stage was a celebrity

President Obama awards 21 people the Medal of Freedom

Elouise Cobell, Margaret H. Hamilton, Newt Minow are three people who aren’t household names in America, but each have made significant accomplishments impacting millions of people. Ms. Cobell fought for the rights of Native Americans, Ms. Hamilton led the team that created the on-board flight software for NASA’s Apollo command modules and lunar modules and Mr. Minow served a Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission during an era of broadcast media revolutions

4) Even the audience was special

President Obama awarded 21 people the nation's highest civilian honor during a ceremony at the White House on Tuesday (Mark Meredith, Media General)

Bob Costas, Rita Cosby and Tyler Perry were all invited guests of Tuesday’s historic White House ceremony. Secretary of State John Kerry was one of the first to arrive and spent nearly 30 minutes greeting dozens of guests as they arrived. The White House provided a reception following the event but without a doubt the most memorable moment came before the ceremony began. For the first time since going viral, the Mannequin video challenge made it’s way to the White House: