President Barack Obama showers actress Meryl Streep with love at awards ceremony

US President Barack Obama presenting the Medal of Freedom to actress Meryl Streep during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on Nov 24, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP  
US President Barack Obama presenting the Medal of Freedom to actress Meryl Streep during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on Nov 24, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP  

Washington (AFP) - President Barack Obama said he is in love, though he was not speaking about his wife Michelle - but he swears she understands.

"I've said it publicly: I love Meryl Streep. I love her. Her husband knows I love her. Michelle knows I love her. There's nothing either of them can do about it," he said at the Presidential Medal of Freedom awards Monday.

Obama endowed 18 people, including Streep, musician Stevie Wonder, Chilean-American author Isabel Allende, journalist Tom Brokaw and composer Stephen Sondheim, with the award, the highest civil honour in the United States.

A smiling Obama showered Streep with praise, complimenting the Out Of Africa (1985) actress for her ability to embody the characters she plays.

"She inhabits her characters so fully and compassionately," he said of the three-time Oscar winner at the ceremony at the White House.

He also applauded her musical capabilities and her impressive ability to speak with any accent.

"She's sung ABBA, which, you know, that's something. She learned violin, wore a nun's habit, faced down a charging lion, mastered every accent under the sun.

"Meryl is truly one of America's leading ladies." Streep won an Oscar in 2012 for her role as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. She took home her first golden statue in 1980 for Kramer Vs. Kramer and another in 1983 for Sophie's Choice.

Obama also honoured Motown legend Wonder, whose album Talking Book (1972), was the first he ever bought.

"I was 10 years old, maybe 11. With my own cash. I didn't have a lot of it. And I listened to that thing - that thing got so worn out.

"What really defines Stevie's music is the warmth and humanity that resonates in every note. Some of his songs helped us to fall in love. Others mended our hearts. Some motivated us on the campaign trail," he said.

The economist Robert Solow and John Dingell, the longest-serving member of US congress, were also awarded.