Parton revealed that she has already heard from the Biden administration about the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest US civilian honor.
Country music icon and national treasure, Dolly Parton, reportedly turned down the Presidential Medal of Freedom twice from former President Donald Trump. During her recent appearance on NBC's TODAY, Parton — whose lifelong philanthropical deeds are lauded just as much as her contributions to the music industry — revealed why she was unable to accept the highest US civilian honor on both occasions. The topic came up when the show's hosts, Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager, asked her about former President Barack Obama's admittance that failing to honor the celeb with the award was a major "screwup" of his administration.
Obama, who handed out 123 Presidential Medals of Freedom during his eight years as president, acknowledged the slip-up during an appearance on A Late Show With Stephen Colbert in December. "That was a screw-up. I'm surprised. I think I assumed that she had already got one, and that was incorrect," the 59-year-old said when the host jokingly questioned him on it. "She deserves one. I'll call Biden," Obama added at the time. The father-of-two appears to have kept his word on the promise as Parton revealed that she'd heard from the current president already — even though his administration just took office on January 20.
"Actually, I have. But to be honest and in all fairness, I got offered the Freedom award from the Trump administration. I couldn't accept it because my husband was ill. Then they asked me again about it and I wouldn't travel because of the COVID," Parton revealed. "So now I feel like if I take it, I'll be doing politics so I'm not sure. I don't work for those awards. It'd be nice but I'm not sure that I even deserve it. But it's a nice compliment for people to think that I might deserve it."
Contrary to Parton's characteristic humility on the matter, it is widely accepted that there are few — if any — more deserving of the Presidential Medal of Freedom than the "Jolene" singer. Parton, who has penned over 3000 songs and has 10 Grammy Awards, has dedicated her stardom and life to make the world a better place for as many as she can. For decades, the avid philanthropist has been forwarding the cause of literacy through her own organization Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, and helping those in need via her Dollywood Foundation. She also made headlines in April last year when she donated $1 million to help research and development of the Moderna vaccine against Covid-19.
The simple fact that she says she’s not sure she even deserves the honor shows you how much she does. Giving Dolly Parton the MOF just might restore the honor and dignity to the award. https://t.co/pXZ4f0ywh8— #BLM (Steve Whiteley) (@whiteley) February 3, 2021
"I'm sure many, many millions of dollars from many people went into that but I felt so proud to have been part of that little seed money that hopefully will grow into something great and help to heal this world," Parton told BBC in November when news surfaced of her involvement in the long-awaited vaccine's development. "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." Speaking of Parton's gift, Jeff Balser — Vanderbilt's president and CEO — said her "amazing generosity is a source of inspiration." He added: "She cares so much about helping others and we are very grateful for her ongoing support. These funds will help us complete promising research that can benefit millions in their battle with the virus."
In recent years the Presidential Medal of Freedom has been awarded to the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, and posthumously, to Elvis Presley. Though Parton has yet to accept this honor, she has previously received the National Medal of Arts at the annual Kennedy Center Honors ceremony.