President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden congratulated the class of the 45th Kennedy Center Honors Sunday evening, welcoming them to the White House ahead of the star-studded event celebrating the American arts.
“Tonight, we celebrate a truly exceptional, and this is not exaggeration, a truly exceptional group of artists – group of artists who embody the very spirit of ‘we the people.’ This year’s Kennedy Center honorees – they’re all an incredible group of people,” Biden said.
The president ticked through all the honorees, their accomplishments and contributions to the arts. Those being honored at the Kennedy Center Sunday night include George Clooney, Amy Grant, Gladys Knight, Tania León and all four members of the Irish rock band U2.
The honorees, selected for their contributions to American culture by the Kennedy Center’s Executive Committee of its Board of Trustees, are being saluted Sunday night at the Kennedy Center Opera House in front of their peers, according to the Center. The event will be broadcast December 28.
The Bidens’ attendance will mark the second year that the first family continues the longstanding tradition that was interrupted during the Trump administration.
In 2017, then-President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump declined to attend the Kennedy Center Honors after two of the honorees that year – television writer and producer Norman Lear and dancer Carmen de Lavallade – said they would skip the Trump-hosted reception at the White House, citing political beliefs.
At the time, the White House said Trump’s decision would allow the artists “to celebrate without any political distraction.”
Addressing the honorees Sunday, Biden wrapped his remarks with a message about unity.
“In the midst of the great division, that was President Lincoln’s plea. That we would do well to remember today at a moment when there’s too much hate, too much anger, too much division here in America and quite frankly around the world. We have to remember today as their song goes – we are one, but we are not the same. We get to carry each other,” Biden said, slightly misquoting the U2 lyrics, which go: “One life, but we’re not the same.”
Some of the notable attendees at the White House included Sacha Baron Cohen, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Sean Penn, Julia Roberts, Amal Clooney, Matt Damon and former Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police officer Michael Fanone, who was at the US Capitol during the January 6, 2021, insurrection. Also in attendance were Vice President Kamala Harris, second gentleman Douglas Emhoff, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.