Singing legend Elvis Presley was among the seven recipients at US President Donald Trump’s first Medal of Freedom ceremony since taking office.
The award is the highest honour a sitting president can bestow on a civilian.
The White House described Elvis as “an enduring American icon”.
Among the other six recipients honoured at the White House on Friday were baseball legend Babe Ruth and late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
NFL hall-of-famers Roger Staubach and Alan Page were the other sporting icons honoured at the ceremony.
“America is blessed to have the most skill, passion and talent anywhere on Earth,” Mr Trump said during his opening remarks.
“We are truly a great nation and we are a nation that is doing really, really well right now.”
Retiring Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and doctor, philanthropist, and humanitarian Miriam Adelson completed the list.
The president called Senator Hatch “a great friend”, saying: “He liked me right from the beginning and therefore I like him.”
Mr Trump also joked with Justice Scalia’s widow, Maureen, over the size of her family.
“You were very busy, wow,” Mr Trump told her after naming the nine Scalia children. “I always knew I liked him.”
The nomination of Mrs Adelson, wife of billionaire casino magnate and Republican party donor Sheldon Adelson, drew some criticism.
Public Citizen, an American public interest group told the Guardian “it was difficult to believe the decision to recognise Miriam Adelson was based on merit”.
Reacting to the award Mrs Adelson told reporters she was “deeply humbled and moved by this exceptional honour”.
Clarifying the choices, the White House claimed it had followed the example of previous administrations’ processes.
The views of “the public, advisory bodies, the cabinet and senior staff” were all taken into account in making the decision, spokeswoman Lindsay Walters stated.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal are the joint highest civilian awards in the US.
What is the Presidential Medal of Freedom?
- Established in 1963 by President John F Kennedy, it superseded the post-war Medal of Freedom
- The highest awardable civilian honour in the United States
- Traditionally the medal is awarded for “‘meritorious contributions’ to security, US national interests, to world peace… or other significant endeavours”
- Exceptional candidates can receive the award “with Special distinction”
- Recent recipients include ex-Vice-President Joe Biden and Prof Stephen Hawking
Elvis joins a lengthy list of musical stars to be awarded the medal, including Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Dylan, and Stevie Wonder.
Explaining the posthumous award, the White House said: “Presley defined American culture to billions of adoring fans around the world.
“Fusing gospel, country and rhythm and blues” the star had created “a sound all his own”.
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