Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks, musician Sting, singer Al Green, comedienne Lily Tomlin and ballerina Patricia McBride were the five artists to receive this year’s Kennedy Center Honors. President Barack Obama presented the ceremonial ribbons to the honorees at the White House on Sunday.
The White House event preceded a concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C., and was hosted by Stephen Colbert. Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen and Bruno Mars reportedly sang Sting's hit songs, who said that it was “rare” for a Briton to receive the honor. The 63-year-old reportedly said that it was "quite something [to] have other people sing my songs and have to do virtually nothing but smile.”
Hanks, who has won Academy awards for his roles in "Philadelphia" and "Forrest Gump," reportedly said that he could not believe when he was told he was picked for his contribution to the performing arts.
Steven Spielberg talked about Hanks at the event, describing him as “America’s favorite son.” David Letterman and actor Martin Short also spoke about Hanks.
“Tonight, Washington puts the arts above politics, because no matter what party you belong to, everyone wants a selfie with Tom Hanks,” Colbert said.
Green was celebrated by band "Earth, Wind and Fire" who played a medley of his hits “Can't Get Next to You” and “Love and Happiness,” while singer Jennifer Hudson sang a cover of Green’s “Simply Beautiful.” Usher also reportedly honored the 68-year-old singer by singing his iconic song, “Let’s Stay Together.”
“Al Green can caress a lyric like no one else,” comedienne Whoopi Goldberg reportedly said at the event, which will be broadcast on Dec. 30 on CBS.
Prominent ballerinas took to the stage to pay tribute to McBride, who spent nearly 30 years dancing with the New York City Ballet.
“On the night of Patricia McBride’s farewell performance at the New York City Ballet, the crowd showered her with 13,000 roses,” Obama said. “Thankfully, they cut the thorns off first. And that is fitting, because when you hear about Patricia, you hear about somebody who is all rose and no thorn; legendary for her good cheer, her sweetness, her unabashed joyfulness.”
Tomlin, who made her career in comedy and acting after she debuted on “The Garry Moore Show” in 1966, was honored by her “9 to 5” co-star Jane Fonda, as well as Jane Lynch, Reba McEntire, and Kate McKinnon.
“The group on stage with me tonight understands what President Kennedy understood: that our art is a reflection of us not just as people, but as a nation. It binds us together. Songs and dance and film express our triumphs and our faults, our strengths, our tenderness in ways that sometimes words simply cannot do. And so we honor those who have dedicated their lives to this endeavor,” Obama said, at the event at the White House.