Ellen DeGeneres, Tom Hanks and Bruce Springsteen to receive US Presidential Medal of Freedom

Others set to receive the honour are Robert Redford, Michael Jordan and Diana Ross

Ellen DeGeneres, Tom Hanks and Bruce Springsteen to receive US Presidential Medal of Freedom

Ellen Degeneres during a commercial break at a taping of The Ellen Show in Burbank | Image: Andrew Harnik AP/Press Association Images

The recipients of the US Presidential Medal of Freedom have been announced by Barack Obama.

Among those to receive it this year are TV host Ellen DeGeneres, musician Bruce Springsteen, Micosoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, and actors Tom Hanks and Robert De Niro.

The medal is the highest civilian honour that can be given in the US.

It presented to individuals who have made "especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavours."

The awards will be presented at the White House on November 22th.

Announcing the recipients, President Obama said: "The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not just our nation's highest civilian honour - it's a tribute to the idea that all of us, no matter where we come from, have the opportunity to change this country for the better.

"From scientists, philanthropists, and public servants to activists, athletes, and artists, these 21 individuals have helped push America forward, inspiring millions of people around the world along the way."

On DeGeneres, the White House said: " In 1997, after coming out herself, DeGeneres made TV history when her character on Ellen revealed she was a lesbian.

"In her work and in her life, she has been a passionate advocate for equality and fairness."

For Hanks, it said: "He has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role five times, and received the award for his work in Philadelphia and Forrest Gump.

"Off screen, as an advocate, Hanks has advocated for social and environmental justice, and for our veterans and their families."

The White House also praised the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, saying: "The foundation focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty.

"In the United States, the mission is to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. The Gates Foundation has provided more than $36 billion in grants since its inception."

Two honourees are to receive the medal posthumously.

The full list can be seen here.