Loretta Lynn visited the White House on Wednesday and came away with the nation’s highest civilian honor. President Barack Obama presented the Kentucky native, whose string of country hits include “The Pill” and “Fist City,” with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a ceremony in the East Room.
“Her first guitar cost $17 and with it this coal miner’s daughter gave voice to a generation, singing what no one wanted to talk about and saying what no one wanted to think about,” said Obama, in a nod to both her signature song and her moxie in taking on sensitive subjects like birth control and divorce.
The pride of Butcher Hollow, Kentucky was among 14 Americans to receive the medal. Other recipients included former President Bill Clinton, TV mogul Oprah Winfrey, late astronaut Sally Ride, feminist activist Gloria Steinem, jazz musician Arturo Sandoval and baseball great Ernie Banks.
Lynn documented the day with several posts on her Facebook page.
Since breaking out in the early 1960s with her hard honky-tonk style, Lynn has scored 16 No. 1s on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart and landed ten No. 1s on the Top Country Albums survey.
President Obama’s full remarks, plus video, below:
“Lorretta Lynn was 19 the first time she won big at the local fair. Her canned vegetables brought home 17 blue ribbons and made her canner of the year. Now that’s impressive! For a girl from Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, that was fame. Fortunately for us she decided to try her hand at other things than canning. Her first guitar cost $17 and with it this coal miner’s daughter gave voice to a generation, singing what no one wanted to talk about and saying what no one wanted to think about. Now, over 50 years after she cut her first record and canned her first vegetables, Loretta Lynn still reigns as the rule-breaking, record setting Queen of Country Music.”