The award is the highest honour a sitting president can give a civilian and was designed to recognise those who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavours”, according to the Federal Register.
Presley was one of seven recipients honoured by Trump at his first Medal Of Freedom ceremony since becoming president. “America is blessed to have the most skill, passion, and talent anywhere on Earth,” Trump said. “We are truly a great nation and we are a nation that is doing really, really well right now.”
In a statement, a White House spokesperson explained Presley had been chosen to receive the award because he “defined American culture to billions of adoring fans around the world. Fusing gospel, country, and rhythm and blues, [he created] a sound all his own.”
The other recipients of the Presidential Medal Of Freedom in 2018 were baseball icon Babe Ruth, NFL players Roger Staubach and Alan Page, late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, and doctor and philanthropist Miriam Adelson.
Earlier this month, Presley was revealed to be one of the highest-earning dead celebrities of 2018. He ranked second after Michael Jackson, earning £31 million from record sales and the development of a new entertainment complex at his Graceland home.