National Medal of Arts and Humanities Ceremony

President Obama honors artists for their contributions to American culture.
14:45 | 07/10/13

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Transcript for National Medal of Arts and Humanities Ceremony
Special report from ABC news. Hello everyone -- Hernandez in New York this ABC news digital special report. President Obama will be awarding the 2012 national medal of arts and national humanities medal in the east room of the White House shortly joined by the First Lady. The national medal of arts is the highest award given to artists and patrons by the united. Government. Actor Alpa chino. -- among those honored. Five and Washington. -- with a preview hello Mary. -- hi -- -- -- -- -- do well thanks that we've got some of last year's recognizable winners how about this year. Quite an impressive and wide ranging group the president is honoring 24 writers musicians and literary and cultural figures for their contributions to the US arts and humanities. And this group includes legendary sportswriter Frank Deford. Playwright Tony Kushner writer Joan didian and filmmaker George Lucas who of course is famous for his Star Wars and Indiana Jones -- -- this -- Quite a large and impressive group. -- -- some of these very familiar faces. Clocking up. Get there on -- is how these people chosen. The group -- chosen by the national endowment for the arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities which is actually a separate independent agency although the president does appoint the chairman of it. And they they pore over all of these different highly qualified. Potential nominees and honorees. And then independently -- each one of them so this is quite a long process but but as you mentioned the nation's highest award. And it seems like they come from a very wide swath of the arts we have writers we have actors. Absolutely this runs the full gamut as we mentioned you have. Cultural figures writers you know sports writers but also literary novelists and and playwrights. And then of course you have also filmmakers and this isn't quite an interesting and wide ranging group and really I think -- interesting for them to get together and talk -- themselves as well. Absolutely you -- the crowd narrow waiting in anticipation to see the president come out and deliver those. Medals and awards is the president -- -- -- and is going to speak. The president will be speaking is going to be recognizing each one of those 24 -- -- we anticipate he'll. You'll recognize and -- -- amazing accomplishments of many and a actually offer them the award and the First Lady will be there as well and here they come. Write him -- primary we thank -- -- much different restlessness in now as president. To hand out again. 2012 national. -- make -- and because. I've bought their books I've seen -- movie. By the records. So were were major contributors here. Well hello everybody and welcome the White House thank you for joining us to celebrate. The recipients. The 2000. And twelve. Because I guess -- retrospective. National medal of arts and national humanities medals. One of the special privileges of this office is getting a chance to honor. Individuals who played an important role in my life as well as. In the nation's life. And that's what today is all about. Celebrating something extraordinary men and women whose views -- talents in the arts and humanities to -- -- -- and nourish soles. And help us understand what it means to be human and what remains to be an America. I want to. Give some special thanks to the people who help to preserve and to support that cultural legacy. The acting chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Arts -- -- column -- He. Pulled her predecessor. The irrepressible -- lands -- As well as reacted chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Humanities Carol Watson. Both organizations -- an incredible job lifting up some of today's best artists and scholars. And helping to cultivate the next generation talent and elect and I'd like to it also acknowledged. The co chairs of the president's committee on. The arts and humanities. George Stevens junior. -- -- -- News. -- its. Members of congress who were here today all of whom support. The arts but we are. We are primarily here. To acknowledge. These incredible individuals and frankly they're just fun for me because. I feel like an -- Because I've enjoyed -- performances. Your. Your writings have. Fundamentally changed me. I think for the better Merrill and I I believe that. At first glance this is a pretty diverse group we've got. Incredible singers and dancers we -- poets and producers. Musicians playwrights scholars they come from all across the country all around the world. And yet for all their differences. Today's honorees have one thing in common and that is they are teachers. Whether they realize or not. They've taught us about ourselves and about our world. American philosopher will -- who once wrote that the aim of art. Is to represent not be outward appearance of facts. But there inward significance. And that's an extraordinary skill. To tell the untold stories of history to reveal. The sculpture that's waiting -- and a block of strong. To transform. Written music in the song. Two. To make it look like those its planes and space are actually flying like they -- I'm just saying -- I remember when I first saw -- There's a whole generation that thinks special effects always look like. They -- tonight. But it just me being you'd -- like -- spring. On the role model spaceships. And -- I'm being let -- for. Because the arts and humanities are just. A source of entertainment they challenge -- to thank. And to question. And to discover. To seek that inward significance. And that helps us grow. And to change and to reach new -- And understand each other. At a time when. The world is constantly crying for. The capacity -- Bridge that gap and speak to people who. Aren't like us. And that's exactly what these artists and -- Humorists have done. About working hard. Developing their craft following their dreams never giving up. You know some -- like counter -- who. Is being honored here for his incredible contributions to the rhythm and blues. And jazz music of his beloved -- -- after. His hometown was battered by Katrina and Allen was forced to evacuate he did something more important for a city he went back. And since then -- devoted his musical talent to lifting up and building up the city. And today he's taking the stage all over the world -- all kinds of incredible talent. During -- they can't. Revived. The legendary soul of the big -- -- like Ernest Gaines who grow up is descendant of sharecroppers in the south. And in the farming the same land. This is ancestors he did not let that define his future instead he took that experience and use it to help fill. And gaps. In American literature -- the store is -- and American life and then terrorist movement. Back to Louisiana. -- the very same land he and his family once worked. And he spent more than forty years teaching college students to find their own voices and reclaiming some of the stories. Of their own -- and their own lives. Some -- like Joan didian. Who. Rightly has earned distinction as. One of the most celebrated American writers -- generation. -- -- -- -- But early years -- -- in school only sporadic -- we taught herself how to read well. She and her -- -- followed her army office father around. Around the country she obviously learned quickly. If you want -- contest. For vote in college gave up the dream of being an oceanography for. Writing became -- world and today decades and -- -- remains one of -- sharpest and most respected observers of American politics. And culture. Know what's true for those three is true for all the recipients here. So -- You have. Touched me and touched Michelle. Now we're trying to get them -- Malia and Sasha. You know sleeps. And -- worker. You know read. Gilead. Because we want to share that because we think it was important to us. And we risk we do we celebrate people like. Our -- here today not just because their -- But because they create something new they create -- new space. And that becomes a lasting contribution to American life. And that's true for all of these -- so. Together the men and women with us today -- helped us appreciate individual talent. But as I said earlier they've also helped us to bridge. Our differences. To recognize. All the things we sure as. Americans. Whether it's arts or humanities -- Sports. You know -- I guy -- Britain. Sports Illustrated. There's very good for me -- by U. Because the because all these endeavors -- -- they don't discriminate. They don't pre judge. They speak to all of -- equally if we're open to. They're part of all of our common church they -- all these distinct voices and emotions -- stories. And that's us. That's who we are. So for more than 200 years that cultures helped shape our views of democracy and freedom and tolerance. And progress. Sometimes the observations or. Incredible art. Or. Scholarship that's been done by these honorees are overlooked. But. Somewhere there have an impact. And it's like Bobby Kennedy talked about they create ripples of hope like stones. And elected an eminence and we never know exactly how. Or who will be touched by it. But it makes a difference. And it's made us better. And the work that we honor today the lifetime achievement these artists and these scholars. Reminds us that the human imagination is still the most powerful tool we have is people. That's why -- celebrate their creativity. And the fundamental optimism the notion that they work that -- some real actually pay attention. And that's why we have to remain committed to the dreamers and the creators and innovators of fuel that progress. And help us like the way ahead because our children our grandchildren deserve to grow. In a country where there dreams know no bounds and their ambitions extend as far as their talents and hard work can take them. And it's important that they have examples people who've carved out a path for them so I want to thank today's -- For doing their part. Foster that spirit to enrich our entire nation. Every one of them has helped -- see beyond outward appearances and appreciate. The significant. The significance of what's -- and for that we are incredibly grateful. So. It is now. My privilege to present these medals to each of them is former military it's -- their citations. President Obama -- Remark as. For the medal of arts humanities. And now it's in the Easter you can of course get a complete recap right here on NBC that he can keep watching live coverage on the other life stream channel for now on tax and its efficacy if he did before. This has been a special group. Report from me.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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