Transcript for President Obama Hosts National Medal of Arts and Humanities Ceremony
But when I'm down Cutler in New York. Some of the biggest and most influential names in the arts and entertainment -- are to be honored at the White House this afternoon you can see some of them getting seated there. President Obama will be the master of ceremonies and national medal of arts the national medal of humanity's. That begins in just a few moments you can see the audience -- are taking their feet. We watch the president's. Making his way into the room. But first. Wanna go to ABC's neighbors who's standing by now we are just a bit about this year's recipients quite a diverse group. Absolutely this is really an incredible group of Americans being honored for their outstanding contributions to the arts and humanities 22 different recipients this year. And they have such a wide range there some are authors. Musicians filmmakers. And a lot of familiar names to Dan they include Diane Greene that that famous voice that radio voice that we hear on NPR sell -- and Maxine Hong Kingston the writer. Linda Ronstadt the famous singer so quite an eclectic eclectic group being honored. The White House here today at a ceremony about to begin let's now go there. -- saved. The portrait of George Washington. -- hands in this room from an advancing. British are. So I guess you could say the White House is always supported. The arts. I'm glad to say that Michelle has never had to. Save any paintings that I know of from bowl or otherwise. But we do believe in celebrating. Extraordinary -- talented Americans and their achievements. In the arts and in the humanities. So I want to thank Jane -- and -- Adams. Who chairs of the national endowment of the arts. And the national endowment of the humanities for their outstanding work. And I want to thank members of congress including a great champion arts Nancy Pelosi for joining us this afternoon. -- -- Great my Angelo once said. A bird doesn't saying that because it has an answer. It's things because it has -- Each of the men and women that we honor today has -- -- Literally in some cases. For others it's -- talents or drive for -- passion. That they just had to share with the world. To -- -- is like most creative and brainy people. You did not cultivate your song or accolades or applause. If there were no medal for your work and I expect you'd still be out there are designing buildings. And making movies. And digging through archives and asking tough questions in their readers. But we do honor you today. Because your accomplishments of enriched. Our lives and reveal something about ourselves and about our country. We can never take for granted. The flash of insight that comes from watching the great documentary -- reading a great memoir. Or novel or. Seeing an extraordinary piece of architecture. We can't forget the one -- we feel when we stand before an incredible work of art. For the world of memories we find -- walks with a simple movement. Or single -- Just moments you helped create. Moments of understanding or all of joy or sorrow. They add texture -- our alliance they are not incidental to the American experience there are central to it they are essential to. So we not only congratulate you this afternoon. We thank you for an extraordinary lifetime of achievement. I'll -- close by telling a tale of somebody who took place in this house back and 1862. President Lincoln call together a meeting of his cabinet to present them with the emancipation proclamation. But that was not the first item on his agenda -- little -- story instead he began reading out loud from a story from. The humorous. -- -- -- -- called high handed outrage at Utica. The -- one often repeated account after he finished a chapter -- and laughed. And laughed. His cabinet did not. So -- -- them another check. And they still sat there in stony silence. -- He put the blue book down he said. Gentlemen. Why -- you laugh. You need this medicine as much as -- To be clear are probably will not be trying this in my cabinet meetings. Certainly not if I'm presenting something like the emancipation proclamation. But what Lincoln understood. Is that the arts and humanities. Are just there to be consumed. And enjoyed when -- we have a free moment in our lives we rely on them constantly. We need them. -- -- -- -- -- So once again our thanks tonight's honorees for creating work that I'm sure -- met present -- -- standards. In this complicated world and in these challenging times. -- shared a song with us and enhance the character of our country and for that we are extraordinarily grateful. It is now my privilege. To present. These medals. To each. Of the recipients. After -- citation as written so. -- military. Provides recipients. Julia Alvarez. 2013. National medal of arts to Julia Alvarez. For extraordinary story telling him in power -- -- pros ms. Alvarez explores themes of identity family and cultural divides. She illustrates the complexity of navigating two worlds and reveals the human capacity for strength. In the face of op oppression. Accepting on behalf of Brooklyn Academy of Music. Karen Brooks Hopkins. The 2013. National medal of -- to Brooklyn Academy of Music. For innovative contributions to the performing and visual arts. For over a 150 years -- -- showcase the works of both establish visionaries. And emerging artists who take risks and push boundaries. Joan Harris. The 2013. National medal of arts to Joan Harris for supporting creative expression in Chicago and across our country. Her decades of leadership and generosity have enriched our cultural life. And helped countless artists dancers singers and musicians bring their talents to center stage. Bill T Jones. The 2013. National medal of arts to bill T Jones for his contributions as a dancer and choreographer. Renowned for provocative performances that -- and eclectic mix of modern and traditional dance. Mr. Jones creates works the challenge just to confront tough subjects and inspire us to greater heights. John -- The 2013. National medal of arts to John candor for his contributions as a composer. For more than half a century mr. candor has -- Broadway television and film through songs that evoke romanticism. And wonder. And capture moral dilemmas that persist across generations. Jeffrey Katzenberg. The 2013. National medal of -- to Jeffrey Katzenberg for lighting up our screens and opening our hearts through animation and cinema. Mr. Katzenberg has embrace new technology to develop the art of storytelling. And transform the way we experience film. Maxine Hong Kingston. The 2013. National medal of arts to Maxine Hong Kingston. For a contributions as a writer. Her novels and nonfiction have examined how the past influences are present. And her voice has strengthened our understanding of Asian American Identity helping shape our national conversation about culture gender and race. Albert measles. The 2013. National medal of arts to Albert measles. For rethinking and remaking documentary film in America. One of the pioneers of direct cinema he has offered authentic depictions of people and communities across the globe for nearly sixty years. I capturing raw emotions and representations. His work reflects the young filtered truths of our shared humanity. Linda Ronstadt. The 2013. National medal of arts to Linda Ronstadt. For -- one of a kind voice senator decades of remarkable music. Drawing from a broad range of influences ms. Ronstadt defied expectations to conquer American radio waves. And helped pave the way for generations of women artists. Building CN and Todd Williams. The 2013. National medal of arts to -- -- and Todd Williams for their contributions to architecture and arts education. Whether public or private -- -- -- deliberate and inspired designs have a profound effect on the lives of those who interact with them. And their teaching and spirit of service have inspired young people to pursue their passions. James surround. The 2013. National medal of arts to James -- for his groundbreaking visual art. Capturing the powers of light and space mister -- those experiences that force us to question reality. Challenging our perceptions not only of art but also of the world around us. National humanities medal recipients. MH Abrams. The 2013. National humanities medal to MH Abrams for broadening the study of literature. As a scholar writer and critic doctor Abrams has expanded our perception. Of the romantic tradition. And explored the modern concepts of artistic self expression in western culture influencing an inspiring generations of students. Accepting on behalf of American and to -- -- society. Ellen Dunlap. The 2013. National humanities medal to American into Korean society. For safeguarding the American story. For more than two centuries the society has amassed an unparalleled collection of historic American documents. Served as a research center for scholars and students alike. And connected generations of Americans to their cultural heritage. David Brian Davis. The 2013. National humanities medal to -- David Brian Davis. For reshaping our understanding of history. Doctor Davis has shed light on the contradiction of a union founded on liberty yet existing half slave and half free. And -- examinations of slavery and abolition -- drive us to keep making moral progress in our time. William Theodore. The 2013. National humanities medal to William Theodore. For enlightening our view of the world. As a scholar of east Asian studies doctor do very has -- -- global conversation. Based on the common values and experiences shared by all cultures. Helping to bridge differences and build trust. Darlene Clark kind. The 2013. National humanities medal to Darlene Clark kind for enriching our understanding of the African American experience. Through prolific scholarship and leadership doctor -- has examined race class and gender. And has shown how the struggles and successes of African American women have shaped the nation we are today. John Paul Jones. The 2000. Thirteen national humanities medal to John Paul Jones. For honoring nature and indigenous traditions in architecture. As the creative mind behind diverse and cherished institutions around the world. Mr. Jones has designed spaces worthy of the cultures they reflect the communities they serve and the environments -- happen. Stanley Nelson. The 2013. National humanities medal to Stanley Nelson for documenting the stories of African Americans through film. By using his camera to tell both well known and lesser known narratives mr. Nelson has exposed injustices. And highlighted triumphs. Revealing new depths of our nation's history. Diane -- The 2013. National humanities medal to Diane -- For eliminating the people and stories behind the headlines. In probing interviews with everyone from pundits to poets to presidents. -- dreams keen insights and boundless curiosity. Have deepened our understanding of our culture and ourselves. And -- fire -- Scott. To 2013. National humanities medal to end -- Scott for pioneering the study of women in the American south. Doctor -- exploration of the previously -- examine the lives of southern women. -- different races classes and politically ideologies. Has established women's history. As vital to our conception of southern history. Chris Tippett. The 2013. National humanities medal to -- Tippett for thoughtfully delving into the mysteries of human existence. On the air and in print. -- Tippett avoids easy answers embracing complexity and -- can inviting people of every background to join our conversation about faith. Ethics and moral wisdom. I think now's a good time. -- by the stand up and give these outstanding. -- -- -- Well congratulations to all of you. We could not. Be more person of of of everything you've done. I was mentioning -- before coming up by I've been personally touched. By all sorts of these folks. I was mentioning to to Maxine that when I was just. First writing my first book and trying to teach myself how to write the women warriors was one of the books I read. After the book was done Diane wasn't one of the few interviews that was granted. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Back in the day. So and -- -- all of you have been touch similarly via. Obviously these amazing. People so we are very grateful to you. On behalf of Michelle myself as we're taking pictures -- the recipients in the family. Their families please continue to enjoy the reception here thank you very much -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Some of those well known names as the president is pointed out -- -- Ronstadt for the national medal of arts also director and CEO DreamWorks Jeffrey Katzenberg and of course. Radio host Diane -- Famous by her NPR program the president. Making a special shout out -- that. Of course you can keep up with this story in real time by downloading the -- -- out and start -- store for exclusive updates on the go. For now though -- down -- New York.
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.