Kennedy Center Honors

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Kennedy Center Honors
Kennedy center honors logo.gif
Awarded for Lifetime Contributions to American Culture through the Performing Arts.
Country USA
Presented by Board of Trustees of the Kennedy Center
First awarded 1978
Official website Kennedy Center Honors
The 2006 honorees at the Kennedy Center on December 6, 2006, with President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush. From left, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Steven Spielberg, Dolly Parton, Zubin Mehta, Smokey Robinson, Vice President Cheney, and Lynne Cheney.

As compared to knighthood in Britain or the French Legion of Honor, the Kennedy Center Honors annually recognizes those in the performing arts for their lifetime of contributions to American culture (though they do not need to be U.S. citizens). The Honors have been presented annually since 1978, and each December culminate in a star-studded gala celebrating the Honorees in the Kennedy Center Opera House.[1]

Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss of White Cherry Entertainment have been selected as Executive Producers of the 38th annual Kennedy Center Honors.[2] On December 6, 2015, the Kennedy Center will celebrate the lifetime achievements of American rock band the Eagles, singer-songwriter Carole King, filmmaker George Lucas, actress and singer Rita Moreno, conductor Seiji Ozawa, and actress and Broadway star Cicely Tyson. CBS will broadcast the Honors gala on December 29, 2015.

Selection process[edit]

Honoree recommendations are accepted from the general public,[3] and the Kennedy Center initiated a Special Honors Advisory Committee, which comprises two members of the Board of Trustees as well as past Honorees and distinguished artists. The Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees selects the Honoree recipients based on excellence in music, dance, theater, opera, motion pictures, or television.[4]

The events[edit]

The weekend-long ceremony includes the Chairman's Luncheon, State Department dinner, White House reception and the Honors gala and supper.

Surrounded by the Honorees, the luncheon is held on Saturday at the Kennedy Center, with a welcoming speech by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees. At that evening's reception and dinner at the State Department, presided over by the Secretary of State, the Honorees are introduced and the Honors medallions are presented by the Chairman of the Board.[4]

On Sunday, there is an early-evening White House reception[5] hosted by the President of the United States and the First Lady, followed immediately by the Honors gala and supper.


2005 Kennedy Center Honorees Julie Harris, Robert Redford, Tina Turner, Suzanne Farrell, and Tony Bennett, with President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, in the Blue Room at the White House, December 4, 2005.
The surviving members of Led Zeppelin were honored and are pictured here with President Barack Obama.

There have been 203 recipients to date of the Kennedy Center Honors Awards during the Honor's 38 years[dated info]. The vast majority have been bestowed on individuals. On ten occasions since 1985, awards have been presented to duos or groups, including three married couples: lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe, actors Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, musical-comedy duo Betty Comden and Adolph Green, dancers Fayard Nicholas and Harold Nicholas, actors Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, songwriters John Kander and Fred Ebb, actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, musicians Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey of The Who and the members of Led Zeppelin and The Eagles.





Kennedy Center honorees 2009 Mel Brooks, Dave Brubeck, Grace Bumbry, Robert De Niro, and Bruce Springsteen, with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in the Blue Room, White House, Dec. 6, 2009.


Prospective honorees who declined, canceled or postponed[edit]

Pianist Vladimir Horowitz was to be an honoree, but the selection committee withdrew the offer when Horowitz conditioned his acceptance on being honored alone and at 4 in the afternoon.[11] Actress Katharine Hepburn declined the committee's first offer, though she relented in 1990.[11]

When considering Irving Berlin for the 1987 awards because of criticism for overlooking him, the Center was informed that Berlin wanted to be honored only if he surpassed his 100th birthday (which would not be until May 1988). Also, he was in failing health, being confined to a wheelchair following a series of strokes, and could not attend a public event. The Center instead chose to pay special tribute to him at the 1987 Gala.[12]

Paul McCartney was selected as an honoree in 2002, but the award was postponed a year when McCartney was unable to attend because of an "inescapable personal obligation". The obligation was the marriage of his cousin that had been previously planned months before the invitation. In August 2003 the Kennedy Center issued a one-sentence statement saying that "Paul McCartney will not be receiving a Kennedy Center Honor."[13] McCartney later became a 2010 honoree.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About the Honors" Kennedy Center, accessed October 4, 2015
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Barbara Cook, Neil Diamond, Yo-Yo Ma, Sonny Rollins & Meryl Streep to Receive 34th Annual Kennedy Center Honors", accessed September 6, 2011
  7. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Dustin Hoffman, David Letterman, Natalia Makarova, Buddy Guy, Led Zeppelin Are Kennedy Center Honorees", September 12, 2012
  8. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Martina Arroyo, Herbie Hancock, Billy Joel, Shirley MacLaine and Carlos Santana Are 2013 Kennedy Center Honorees", September 12, 2013
  9. ^ Harris, Paul (2014-09-04). "Tom Hanks, Lily Tomlin, Sting to Receive Kennedy Center Honors". Variety. Retrieved 2014-09-04. 
  10. ^ Viagas, Robert. "Carole King, Cicely Tyson, Rita Moreno and More Named 2015 Kennedy Center Honorees", July 15, 2015
  11. ^ a b Crews, Chip."The Honors, Take 2"The Washington Post, December 27, 2005
  12. ^ Molotsky, Irvin."Five Receive Kennedy Center Honors for Artistic Contributions" The New York Times , December 7, 1987
  13. ^ "The Kennedy Center Honors: This Year's Bid for Glamour" The New York Times (registration required), August 6, 2003
  14. ^ Trescott, Jacqueline."Oprah Winfrey among five recipients of 2010 Kennedy Center Honors"The Washington Post, September 7, 2010

External links[edit]