The 2011 Kennedy Center Honors, held Sunday in Washington, featured appearances by renowned celebrities and diplomats. The event is an annual honor given to individuals in the performing arts for their lifetime contributions to American culture.

Present at this year's award ceremony were President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama along with a host of dignitaries and celebrities, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Newt Gingrich and his wife Callista, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Jessica Parker, Robert DeNiro, Stephen Colbert, Kevin Kline, Tracey Ullman and Emily Blunt.

This year, the Kennedy Center celebrates its 40th anniversary by selecting five extraordinary individuals whose collective artistry has contributed significantly to the cultural life of our nation and the world, said Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein.

The annual Honors Gala is regarded as an important event in the Washington cultural year and is a star-studded celebration conducted at the Kennedy Center Opera House stage.

Among the honorees this year were singer Barbara Cook, singer and songwriter Neil Diamond, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, saxophonist and composer Sonny Rollins and actress Meryl Streep.

Seated with the president and first lady, the honorees accepted the thanks of their peers and fans through performances and heartfelt tributes.

Take a look at the 2011 gala event in the slideshow: