The former president said that it was a major "screwup" of his administration that he failed to honor Dolly Parton with the country's highest civilian award.
Former President Barack Obama handed out 123 Presidential Medals of Freedom during his eight years as president. Although it is the most ever handed out since the award was established in 1963, the 44th president of the United States admitted during a recent appearance on A Late Show With Stephen Colbert that there's one deserving person who slipped his mind. Appearing on the show Monday while promoting the first volume of his presidential memoirs, A Promised Land, Obama said it was a major "screwup" of his administration that he failed to honor Dolly Parton with the country's highest civilian award.
According to Daily Mail, the 59-year-old acknowledged the slip-up while participating in a recurring segment of Colbert's, where the host asks his guests questions he doesn't think they've ever been asked before. "Did you miss you? Did you ever look at something going on in the news and go, 'You know what this situation needs? A little Barack Obama,'" Colbert asked him at one point, setting off the former president's signature laugh. "I found the work fascinating," said Obama. "But I do not miss having to wear a tie every day."
Colbert eventually got around to the one question we are all wondering: "How does Dolly Parton not have a Presidential Medal of Freedom?" Obama seemed slightly taken aback at the question, before admitting: "That was a mistake. I'm shocked." The host pushed him just a little further by jokingly asking, "Looking back on the eight years, do you realize that's the mistake you made?" The father-of-two graciously owned up to the oversight and promised to fix it when President-elect Joe Biden — his former vice president — takes office in January. "Actually, that was a screw-up. I'm surprised. I think I assumed that she had already got one, and that was incorrect," he said.
"She deserves one. I'll call Biden," Obama added. During his eight years in office, Obama bestowed the Medal of Freedom on dozens of public figures and musical artists, including the likes of Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Gloria Estefan, and Barbra Streisand. First established in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy, the Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded to those who have provided an, "especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."
It is one of the highest awards given to civilians of the United States, along with the Congressional Gold Medal. While Parton has been lauded with countless awards over her decades-long career, the Medal of Freedom has surprisingly eluded the 74-year-old. Throughout her career, the "Jolene" singer has dedicated money, time, and support to make the world a better place for one and all. "I know that I'm in a position to help. That's why I try to do it in every way that I can," she explained to TIME in an interview earlier this year.
From establishing the Dollywood Foundation in 1988 "to inspire the children in her home county to achieve educational success," to founding the Imagination Library in 1995 in honor of her father to "foster a love of reading among her county’s preschool children and their families by providing them with the gift of a specially selected book each month," Parton's legacy is far greater than the incredible contributions she's made to the music industry.
Most recently, it was revealed that the beloved celebrity helped fund the groundbreaking Moderna COVID-19 vaccine research by donating $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center back in April. "What better time right now, we need this," she said during an appearance on NBC's Today Show. "I felt like this was the time for me to open my heart and my hand, and try to help."