So, there he was, just standing there, managing at 71 to look like the same unwashed phenomenon he was at 19, a lifelong vagabond in an antique frock coat and dark glasses, an older, weather-beaten, dried out, dessicated version of himself, looking somewhat confused to be sharing a dais with the President of the Unite States, among Nobel Prize winners, crusading doctors, and a war hero who became a Supreme Court Justice - wondering how in the world he had managed to end up in such a predicament, being extolled as a hero of the Republic for speaking truth to power over a five decade career of ups and downs, on a neverending world tour. And when his turn came, with the tall, angular president of the United States standing behind him to drape the Medal of Freedom around his neck, was it merely an illusion or did the President really break out in a huge smile that seemed to say something like, "Fucking A....I can't believe I'm really doing this."
Unlike the previous recipients, when the young president and the old singer shook hands, the older man gripped the younger man's right shoulder with a gesture that was somewhere between a manly squeeze and a grandfatherly pat....and suddenly it becomes clear: this is one of the very few people in the world who really knows what it's like to be the focus of great attention from moment to moment for years at a time, all because you have a gift with words, and an ability to condense complex thoughts into simple statements.
It was a unique moment and you really got the feeling, watching from a distance, that as much as the younger man was honoring the older man, the older man was conferring some measure of his authenticity upon the younger man.
From this distance, it really looked like the President of the United States was far more awestruck than the aging vagabond was awestruck about being honored by the young president. After all, presidents come and go with the passage of time, but there's only ever been one Bob Dylan, and there will never be another one.