“We honor your talents; we honor your careers and your remarkable contributions to this county that we love,” Obama said.
Obama handed out the 2011 National Medal of Arts and the National Humanities Medal at a White House ceremony. The National Medal of Arts is given to individuals or groups for their outstanding contributions to arts in the United States. The National Humanities Medal is awarded to an individual or group who has helped deepen or broaden Americans’ understanding or access to the humanities.
Obama gave out eight National Medal of Arts awards and nine National Humanities Medals,three fewer than the 20 he handed out last year.
The award recipients included actor Al Pacino; Rita Dove,the poet laureate from 1993 to 1995,and others ranging from an economist to painters.
The National Medal of Arts was established in 1984,and the National Humanities Medal was established in 1997,replacing the Charles Frankel Prize in Humanities.
Obama said that one of the most important attributes about art is its universal appeal.
“There is not one of us here who hasn’t had their beliefs challenged by a writer’s eloquence; or their knowledge deepend by a historian’s insights; or their sagging spirits lifted by a singer’s voice. Those are some of the most endearing and memorable moments in our lives,” he said.
Art and humanities have also helped shape America’s history,and Obama promised to continue to make them a priority for the remainder of his presidency.
“And somewhere in America,the next great writer is wrestling with the first draft of an English paper,” he said. “We need them to take the mantle from you; to do their part to disrupt our views and to challenge our presumptions,and most of all to stir in us a need to be our better selves.”
Obama said the impact of the arts is reflected in Walt Whitman’s poem “I Hear America Singing.”
“We all have songs in our souls that are only ours,” Obama said. “But that story is bigger than any one of us. And it endures because we are all heirs to a fundamental truth: that out of many,are one.”
Reach reporter Jordain Carney at[email protected] or 202-326-9861. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.
Will Barnet,painter and printmaker
Emily Rauh Pulitzer,curator and art collector
Mel Tillis,singer and songwriter
United Service Organizations,organizes entertainment for soldiers
André Watts,pianist and teacher
2011 National Humanities Medal:
Kwame Anthony Appiah,author
National History Day,runs history competition