U.S. House Speaker John Boehner accepted a high honor from the Union League on Friday night - and, no, he didn't cry.

The often tearful Ohio Republican received the Philadelphia institution's Lincoln Award, presented to people of distinction who, through their actions, have significantly contributed to the United States.

He entered and left to a standing ovation from about 180 people, and in between delivered 10 minutes of remarks in which he comically described his early upbringing, criticized federal government spending, and complimented the league for its work in preserving history and expanding patriotism.

"I never thought I'd be a politician," Boehner said, saying he had started out by being elected to his neighborhood homeowners' association and ended up speaker of the House.

"This, too, could happen to you," he said, provoking laughter.

In November 2010, Boehner was elected to an 11th term representing Ohio's Eighth Congressional District. He swore in the 112th Congress in January 2011 after being elected by his colleagues as the 53d speaker of the House. That vote became possible when Republicans recaptured the House majority in the midterm elections.

A former small-business owner, township trustee, and state representative, Boehner has helped lead the GOP's push for a smaller, less costly, and more accountable federal government, a theme he reiterated on Friday.

"Government really is choking the goose that's laying the golden egg," he said, asserting that meddlesome government hampered businesses from flourishing. "It's time for us to get this government under control. . . . We are being buried under a mountain of regulations and a mountain of debt."

Earlier this year, the Lincoln Award was presented to Gov. Corbett and Sen. Scott Brown (R., Mass.).

Other winners include New Jersey Gov. Christie, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and filmmaker Ken Burns.