From Sunlen Miller:
Shortly after his health care summit concluded President Obama had a little change of pace, and awarded the National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medals in the East Room.
“I’m sorry I’m a little late Obama said,” to the event that was delayed over 90 minutes due to the extension of the health care summit, “I had this thing I had to do,” he said chuckling.
Mr. Obama awarded 20 awards – and said that each of the recipients had a profound effect on his own life as well as the nation’s – singling out author Robert Caro and Maya Lin who designed the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
“Each and every one of these individuals in some way has touched my life. I think about Robert Caro and reading “The Power Broker” back when I was 22 years old and just being mesmerized and I’m sure it helped to shape how I think about politics,” Obama said, “I think about Maya Lin and the first time I got to see that extraordinary monument to the courage of our young men and women in uniform.”
The president also singled out speechwriter and advisor to president Kennedy, Ted Sorenson, and joked that he “used up all the good lines for every president.”
Mr. Obama said that contributions to the arts and humanities are what strengthens the character of a nation, bringing everyone closer to what makes people American and human.
“It brings joy, it brings understanding and insight. It brings comfort in good times and perhaps especially in difficult times in our own lives and in the life of our nation.”
The president also awarded medals to: Bob Dylan, Clint Eastwood, Milton Glaser, Jessye Norman, The Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Joseph P. Riley, Jr., The School of American Ballet, Frank Stella , Michael Tilson Thomas, John Williams, Rita Moreno, Robert A. Caro, Annette Gordon-Reed, David Levering Lewis, William H. McNeill, Philippe de Montebello, Albert H. Small, and Elie Wiesel.