Former President Barack Obama has been the subject of countless memes.
But no other meme seems to have captivated the internet quite like the “Obama Awards Obama a Medal” meme.
Just based on the name alone, you’ve almost certainly seen this meme before. But how did it come to be?
Obama Awards Obama a Medal Origin
The meme traces back to Nov. 22, 2016, when Obama awarded approximately 21 individuals with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The White House describes the medal as “the Nation’s highest civilian honor.”
One of those recipients included famed musician Bruce Springsteen, who was photographed being bestowed with the honor by the then-incumbent president.
Although other notable figures to receive the medal included actor Robert De Niro and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, Springsteen’s picture somehow rose above.
It wasn’t until Jan. 11, 2017, as chronicled by KnowYourMeme, that the meme officially began. A satirical news website known as The Barbed Wire posted an edited version of the photo that instead showed Obama’s face over Springsteen’s.
“Obama Awards Himself ‘Greatest President Ever’ Medal During Farewell,” a caption on the photo stated.
Thus, a meme was born.
The explosion to legendary meme status
After finding its way online, the meme quickly picked up steam. After going viral on Reddit and other sites, the meme has only continued to become more and more popular.
The meme at first largely centered around Obama. One version even saw multiple Obama’s awarding other Obama’s with the prestigious medal, criticism of what some viewed as an excessively self-congratulatory presidency.
But it isn’t just Obama who is featured in the meme. The format, which is most often used to describe an incident in which someone congratulates themselves, had also been applied to other prominent figures.
Basketball legend Michael Jordan, who received one of the medals on the same day as Springsteen, has even been incorporated into the meme. Instead of showing Jordan’s face from that day, however, users have put the “Crying Jordan” meme face in its place.
The meme hasn’t been aimed just at high-profile individuals. It’s also regularly used by internet users looking to jokingly congratulate themselves for their accomplishments.
In one example, a user on X gave themselves a pat on the back for not texting a former partner amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Awarding my self a medal after this lockdown for not texting my ex..” one X user wrote.
President Joe Biden enters the chat
With such a great meme template, it’s no wonder it remains so popular. The meme even received a second shot of life after Obama awarded the same medal to then-Vice President Joe Biden in 2017.
In this case, given that Biden was unaware he would be awarded, the meme took on a more wholesome phase.
Other examples poke fun at Biden for his history of gaffes, including one in which the former vice president is depicted as confusing the award with becoming a Marvel superhero.
Given how versatile this meme template is, it’s likely we will continue to see updated versions long into the future.