Dolly Parton Declines Medal of Freedom from President Joe Biden

Dolly Parton is notoriously known for staying away from politics, until now. 

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The country legend appeared on the TODAY show earlier this week to discuss her single “World on Fire” from her forthcoming rock album, where she touches upon the political climate in America. 

According to ConsequenceNBC reporter Jacob Soboroff said that Parton mentioned turning down the Medal of Freedom from President Joe Biden in an off-screen conversation. 

“I just don’t want even the appearance of being partisan in any way,” Parton allegedly said to Soboroff. 

The hitmaker did not want to accept the prestigious medal from one party and not the other. Parton kindly declined the Medal of Freedom twice when President Donald Trump was in office – making this the third time the vocalist passed on the offer. 

The Medal of Freedom is presented to a civilian who has made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security of national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” 

In an interview in 2021, she mentioned that the Trump administration tried to give her the highest civilian honor twice. Parton refused the accolade because she thought she didn’t “deserve it,” despite her philanthropic efforts. 

“I don’t work for those awards,” said the songbird. “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.” 

Although Parton has not publicly shared her political views, she called out politicians in her rock-inspired track “World on Fire,” which debuted at the 2023 ACM Awards

Liar, liar, the world’s on fire | What you gonna do when it all burns down? | Fire, fire, burnin’ higher | Still got time to turn it all around, Parton sings in the chorus. Now, I ain’t one for speakin’ out much | But that don’t mean I don’t stay in touch | Everybody’s trippin’ over this or that | What we gonna do when we all fall flat?”

When Soboroff asked which political figure inspired the heated lyrics, she was quick to respond – “Any of em!” 

“I don’t think any of ’em are trying hard enough. I’m sure they’re all trying, but I just really think that, often, they worry more about their party than they do about the people,” Parton declared. “If we just do what we felt was the right thing, rather than who’s gonna lose, who’s gonna win this, who’s gonna look better if they do this, rather than working from the heart.”

Parton penned the track independently. The single that will live on her album, Rockstar, a rock project that serves as a shift in sound, but not tone. While many were shocked to hear the blazing lyrics, Grace Lager, a communication professor at Eckerd College who teaches a Parton-focused class, said that this songwriting technique is used often in her music. 

“She doesn’t reveal her personal politics in an overt way, whether that is backing a particular candidate or party,” Lager told The Washington Post. “But what she does really successfully is backing ideologies that also fit within the Dolly Parton mythology of love, kindness, acceptance, and doing the right thing by your fellow human beings.” 

The full-length collection will be released on November 17. 

Photo by Rick Kern/FilmMagic

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