Barack Obama Says One of His Biggest "Screw-Ups" Involves Dolly Parton

Joe Biden can fix it, though.

During his eight years in the White House, former President Barack Obama had plenty of time to bestow the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 123 individuals. He forgot a major player, though, and it came up during an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. According to Page Six, when Colbert brought up the fact that Obama had neglected to honor Dolly Parton with the Medal of Freedom, he called it "a mistake" and a "screw-up."

Dolly Parton
NBC / Contributor

The official White House website notes that the Presidential Medal of Freedom is given to an individual who has made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural, or other significant public or private endeavors."

During his tenure in the Oval Office, Obama honored Sandra Day O'Connor, Billie Jean King, Meryl Streep, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jordan, and even Joe Biden (just a few of the names on his list of 123). Biden was actually his last honoree and Obama says that the president-elect does have the chance to rectify the fact that Parton hasn't gotten the medal yet.

"That's a mistake — I'm shocked," Obama said. "That was a screw-up. I'm surprised. I think I assumed that she had already got one, and that was incorrect."

This year, Parton donated $1 million to researchers working to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. But even before 2020, Parton has been a major player in the world of philanthropy. Her work with the Dollywood Foundation includes the Dolly Parton Imagination Library (which sends books to children across the globe) and the Mountain Tough Recovery Team (an organization that helps families affected by fires in and around Gatlinburg, Tennessee). She has also donated to the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes, Save the Music Foundation, and the Boot Campaign.

Back in 1989, she gave a $500 scholarship to every student in Sevier County, Tennessee, that wanted to attend the Hiwassee College in an effort to boost graduation rates. Later, in 2017, she donated $1 million to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt after her niece was treated for leukemia there. The $1 million that she donated for COVID-19 research went to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Those are just a few of the things she's done since she rose to prominence as a singer and songwriter.

"She deserves one," Obama told Colbert, who didn't even get a chance to list a few of Parton's accomplishments. "I'll call Biden!"

Biden will be sworn in next year and while he hasn't mentioned Parton possibly receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in his first 100 days in office, it wouldn't be surprising.

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