Entries in Kennedy Center (3)


Obama Hosts Kennedy Center Honorees at White House

Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Seven entertainment icons were hosted at the White House on Sunday for their contributions to the performing arts.

Actor Dustin Hoffman, blues guitarist Buddy Guy, ballerina Natalia Makarova, and comedian David Letterman were given a reception with the three surviving members of Led Zeppelin before the annual Kennedy Center Honors gala Sunday evening.  President Obama welcomed the performers before they were presented their awards at the event.

The president joked that the motley crew’s presence continued “a tradition at the White house by honoring some extraordinary people with no business being on the same stage together.”

“Here in America, more than any other place on Earth we are free to follow our own passions, explore our own gifts, wherever they may lead us,” he said.  “And people from all around the world come here to make sure that they too can provide us the incredible gifts that they have.”

The individuals had one thing in common: all came from what the president called “humble beginnings.”

“Growing up as the son of a share cropper in Louisiana, Buddy Guy made his first guitar out of wires from a window screen,” Obama said, later adding that the artist is now one of the “last guardians of the great American blues.”

Makarova, on the other hand, defected from the Soviet Union in 1970 only to find her name excised from the record in her homeland.

“But no one can erase what takes hold in the heart,” Obama continued.  “In 1989 when the iron curtain opened, the Russian people welcomed her back with open arms.  Over 2,000 people packed in the Kirov Theater where she had trained when she was younger.  Another 20 people crammed in the orchestra.”

While Dustin Hoffman and David Letterman started as a struggling young actor and weatherman, respectively, Obama credited the surviving members of Led Zeppelin -- Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones -- with redefining the rock genre and its lifestyle.  The president said it was “fitting” the room had three-inch thick windows, given the band’s history of trashing hotels.

Together, the talent assembled reminded the country of the “unique power that makes the arts so important,” Obama concluded.

“Each of us can remember a moment when the people on this stage touched our lives,” he said.  “Maybe they didn’t lead us to become performers ourselves.  But maybe they inspired us to see things in a new way, to hear things differently, to discover something within us or to appreciate how much beauty there is in the world.  It’s that unique power that makes the arts so important.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Honors a President 'Who Showed Us What Is Possible' 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, President Obama said were it not for “unfinished life” and “vision” of the nation’s 35th president, he would not be standing up as the 44th president.

“We cannot forget we are the heirs of this president who showed us what is possible,” President Obama said from the Kennedy Center Thursday evening. “Because of his vision, more people prospered, more people served, our union was made more perfect.  Because of that vision, I can stand here tonight as president of the United States.”

The president said that he knows JFK less as a man and more as an icon. The memories of Kennedy’s inauguration he learned through the adoration of others.

“I confess, I don’t have my own memories of that day," President Obama said. "I wasn’t born until later that year.  What I know of that day and the 1,000 days that followed -- what I know of President Kennedy -- came from a mother and grandparents who adored him; from books I read and classes I took; from growing up in a country still mourning its beloved leader whose name was spoken with reverence.”

The president said that so often people born into wealth, like Kennedy, could easily seek a life of luxury and ease -- but not Kennedy.

“He chose a life of leadership," the president said, "fired not by naïve optimism, but committed realism; ‘idealism,’ as his wife Jackie put it, ‘without illusions.’  That is the idealism -- soaring but sober -- that inspired the country and the world one half century ago.”

As the president marked the anniversary, he also noted with sadness the passing of Sargent Shriver.

“His legacy is written in the villages around the world that have clean water or a new school through the Peace Corps,” Obama said. “It’s written into the lives of all the children in our own country whose fortunes have been lifted through Head Start.  And it will endure in the work of his children who are living out his legacy of service -- and our thoughts and prayers are with them tonight.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Commemorates Richard Holbrooke: 'He Belonged in the Arena'

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her husband Bill, joined a crowd of family and friends Friday commemorated the life of Richard Holbrooke, a titan of American diplomacy who died last month.

The president hailed Holbrooke as one who led an "extraordinary life" and "served his country until his final moments."

"It was clear that Richard was not comfortable on the sidelines. He belonged in the arena."

The president announced the creation of an award named after Holbrooke that will award excellence in American diplomacy.

At the time of his death, Holbrooke was Obama's special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The memorial Friday was held at the Kennedy Center because it was President John F. Kennedy who created the Peace Corps, in which Holbrooke served, and inspired him to a career of public service, said David Rubenstein, co-founder and managing director of The Carlyle Group, an investment firm where Holbrooke spent some of his later years.

The memorial service was attended by Vice President Joe Biden, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari and a number of U.S. officials and country heads.

Holbrooke, a forceful presence in American diplomacy for more than 45 years, died in Washington, D.C., at the age of 69 last month.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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