American Icon: Ellen DeGeneres
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest award a civilian can receive in the United States. Perhaps it’s because of the importance of the decoration or the realization of what she had done to deserve it, but it led Ellen DeGeneres to tears as President Barack Obama placed the medal around her neck just days before Thanksgiving.
It was a sweet, touching moment, a reminder of what it means to not only be a citizen of the United States, but one who contributes to making it a better place. In bestowing the honor to DeGeneres, President Obama highlighted the comedian’s courage.
She showed that bravery in the spring of 1997, when the character she played on her self-titled TV series, Ellen, acknowledged she was gay. A few months prior, Ellen had done the same, coming out publicly on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
It’s hard to believe, but back then it was a landmark moment; an ABC affiliate in Birmingham, Alabama, refused to air the seminal Ellen episode and several sponsors pulled out as advertisers. One year later, ABC canceled the show despite winning an Emmy Award for the coming-out episode and receiving strong support from its audience.
Over the next three years, DeGeneres admitted to suffering from depression.
“It’s easy to forget now, when we’ve come so far – where now marriage is equal under the law – just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages almost 20 years ago,” Obama said during the medal ceremony. “What an incredible burden that was to bear, to risk your career like that. People don’t do that very often.”
Today, as host of her own talk show which draws more than 15 million viewers per week, DeGeneres has been transformed into America’s sweetheart. She makes us laugh. She makes us cry. She makes us think. And she challenges us to be better, kinder people.
She has done so since 2003, serving as a comforting, friendly face for many. As Obama said, “Ellen counters what too often divides us with the countless things that bind us together, inspires us to be better, one joke, one dance at a time.”
When it comes to sunglasses, two brands epitomize both the courage and compassion that Ellen exemplifies: Quay Australia and TOMS.
With Quay (click here), you get sunglasses that are bold, daring and different. Quay is confident in what it is, not unlike Ellen. And it doesn’t hide that fact, displaying a style that is fun to wear. We hear it time and time again, when customers put on a pair of Quay sunglasses, they feel good about themselves.
With TOMS (click here), you have sunglasses that are making a difference in our world, just like Ellen. For each pair sold, the company gives back to someone in need through its One For One program that provides prescription glasses, sight-saving surgery or medical treatment for those in need.
Words of an Icon: “Here are the values that I stand for: honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values.” – Ellen DeGeneres