Dolly Parton Declined Presidential Medal of Freedom Twice, But Not for the Reason You Think

by Emily Morgan

For years, America has recognized Dolly Parton as the nation’s southern songstress— so much so that even Presidents have take notice.

In an interview, the East Tennessee native said former President Donald Trump’s administration wanted to give her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, not once but twice.

Yet, Parton turned down the invitation to receive the country’s highest civilian honor. “I couldn’t accept it because my husband was ill and then they asked me again about it and I wouldn’t travel because of the COVID,” she explained.

She also went on to add that the Biden administration also contacted her about the award.

“Now I feel like if I take it, I’ll be doing politics, so I’m not sure,” Parton admitted.

“But I don’t work for those awards,” she continued. “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.”

“TODAY” show host Hoda Kotb spoke for all of us when she added, “I think everyone thinks you might deserve it.”

Dolly Parton Earns Shoutout From Former Presidents

It’s not just her standalone voice that put her in the running for the award: Parton has a philanthropic side. In 1995, she founded Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The program has donated more than 100 million children’s books in the past 26 years.

Her Dollywood Foundation also donated $1,000 per month to several hundred families all across Tennessee when they lost their homes to wildfires. She also donated $1 million to coronavirus research at Vanderbilt University.

“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 said. “Evidently, it is.”

Former President Barack Obama even said he should have given the singer the prestigious award. “How does Dolly Parton not have a presidential medal of freedom?” Stephen Colbert asked Obama during an interview last fall.

Obama confessed, “That’s a mistake. I’m shocked. Actually, that was a screwup, I’m surprised. I think I assumed that she’d already got one and that was incorrect. I’m surprised, she deserves one.”

Former President Obama gave the award to several musicians, including Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, and others. In contrast, former President Trump presented the award to only one musician: the late Elvis Presley.