During his eight years in the White House, former President Barack Obama awarded a number of people the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but country music icon and living angel Dolly Parton was not one of them. In a new interview on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Obama called that omission "a mistake," admitting that not giving Parton the honor was a "screw up."
In a segment called "Questions We're Pretty Sure Barack Obama Has Never Been Asked Before," Colbert asked Obama why Parton doesn't have a Presidential Medal of Freedom. "That's a mistake, I'm shocked," Obama replied. "That was a screw-up. I'm surprised." The former POTUS explained that he had "assumed that she had already got one, and that was incorrect." "She deserves one," he said, adding that he'll call his former Vice President and now President-elect Joe Biden.
During his time in office, Obama gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 123 people including Michael Jordan, Meryl Streep, Billie Jean King, Bob Dylan, Tom Hanks and Gloria Steinem. According to the White House website, the award is the United States' highest civilian honor and recognizes those "who have made exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."
After 2020, Parton has even more reason to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom — she stepped in to help us get through the first months of the coronavirus pandemic, contributed money to developing a vaccine for COVID-19 and is currently on a mission to save Christmas.
Earlier this year, Parton donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University for research into a cure for COVID-19, a contribution that was partially used to fund Moderna's vaccine, which was recently reported to have an efficacy rate of over 94 percent.
The singer found out about her contribution shortly before an interview with Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager on the Today show. "I'm just happy that anything I do can help somebody else, and when I donated the money to the Covid fund, I just wanted it to do good," she told the hosts. "Evidently, it is. Let's just hope we find a cure real soon."
Parton added to BBC's The One Show that she felt "very honored and very proud" to be a small part of something that could aid in ending the pandemic. "I just felt so proud to have been part of that little seed money that will hopefully grow into something great and help to heal this world," she said. "I'm a very proud girl today to know I had anything at all to do with something that's going to help us through this crazy pandemic."