US politicians united by their respect for Burma democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi presented her with Congress' highest civilian honour in a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda, ahead of a meeting with President Barack Obama.
Ms Suu Kyi described it as "one of the most moving days of my life".
She was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2008 while under a 15-year house arrest for her peaceful struggle against military rule.
Her long-awaited visit to America finally provided an opportunity for her to receive the honour in person in Congress' most majestic setting, beneath the dome of the Capitol and ringed by marble statues of former presidents.
The 67-year-old Nobel laureate said it was worth the years of waiting, being honoured "in a house undivided, a house joined together to welcome a stranger from a distant land".
Previous recipients of the medal include George Washington, Tibetan Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama and Pope John Paul II.
She then met privately at the White House with Mr Obama, another winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. They appeared relaxed and were smiling as they talked in the Oval Office.
Mr Obama "expressed his admiration for her courage, determination and personal sacrifice in championing democracy and human rights over the years", according to a statement from the White House.
The White House said the president "reaffirmed the determination of the United States to support their sustained efforts to promote political and economic reforms and to ensure full protection of the fundamental rights of the Burmese people".
The low-key nature of the meeting appeared to reflect concerns that Ms Suu Kyi's Washington visit could overshadow Burma's reformist president Thein Sein, who attends the UN general assembly in New York next week, and still faces opposition within Burma's military to political reform.