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President Obama Presents Medals in Arts and Humanities

Posted by: Audiegrl

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010, for the 2009 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal ceremony. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

The President presented the National Medal of Arts and the National Humanities Medal for 2009 in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in a ceremony Thursday evening.

The 12 winners for the National Medal of Arts were announced in the afternoon and awarded their medals by President and Mrs. Obama in an evening ceremony. Winners of the NMA include famous singer/musician/activist Bob Dylan, the designer Milton Glaser; the artist and architect Maya Lin; the singer and actor Rita Moreno; the soprano Jessye Norman; the artist Frank Stella; the conductor Michael Tilson Thomas; the composer and conductor John Williams; and Joseph P. Riley Jr., the mayor of Charleston, S.C. The actor and director Clint Eastwood was also named a medalist but not present at the ceremony. The Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the School of American Ballet were awarded medals as well.

The annual award is managed by the National Endowment for the Arts. In a statement, the endowment’s chairman, Rocco Landesman, said the winners represented “the breadth and depth of American architecture, design, film, music, performance, theater and visual art.”

First Lady Michelle Obama congratulates Elie Wiesel at a White House ceremony in which he received the National Humanities Medal.

President Obama also presented the 2009 National Humanities Medals to eight Americans for their outstanding achievements in history, literature, cultural philanthropy, and museum leadership. This years winners: prize-winning authors and historians Robert A. Caro (“The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power, Means of Ascent and Master of the Senate”), Annette Gordon-Reed (“The Hemingses of Monticello”), David Levering Lewis, (“W.E.B DuBois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century 1919-1963″) and William H. McNeill (“Plagues and Peoples”). The list also includes speechwriter and lawyer Theodore Sorensen, former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Philippe de Montebello, philanthropist Albert H. Small, as well as Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, founding chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the author of “Night.”

The official citations honoring each medalists can be found here.

The National Humanities Medal honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities.

President Barack Obama, not pictured, acknowledges actress Sarah Jessica Parker, as first lady Michelle Obama looks on, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010, before he presented the 2009 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

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The President’s remarks can be read here.
Last photo credit: Image by MANDEL NGAN / Getty Images

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First Lady Michelle Obama: “If You Ask a Kid To Dream, He’ll Dream” 

First Lady Michelle Obama congratulates an award recipient during the President's Committee on Arts and Humanities Coming Up Taller event in the State Dining Room of the White House

First Lady Michelle Obama congratulates an award recipient during the President's Committee on Arts and Humanities Coming Up Taller event in the State Dining Room of the White House

Yesterday afternoon in the historic State Dining Room, First Lady Michelle Obama, honorary chair of the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities, presented 15 programs from around the world with the Coming Up Taller Award. Given to arts and humanities organizations that reach underserved youth, the award is a reminder of the meaningful role cultural activities play in the lives of our children. This year’s recipients include the Shakespeare Remix program in New York, where inner-city teens adapt and perform Shakespearean texts to reflect their own lives, and the Harmony Project in Los Angeles, which provides free music instruction to at-risk children.

Speaking to a crowd of teachers, program workers, and students, the First Lady highlighted the positive impact these programs have in the lives of children around the world:

    Because of you, teens in Arizona are publishing their own magazine, and children in central and south Los Angeles are learning to play instruments and performing in orchestras. Because of the work that you do, students in New York City are mastering Shakespeare. And in my hometown of Chicago, there are students learning traditional Mexican art forms. There are young people in Egypt who are learning basket weaving and storytelling, calligraphy and photography.

    And you’re not just connecting young people with music, dance, poetry and drama. But because of your work, you’re connecting people, these young people to mentoring, to tutoring, to social services, and college counseling. You don’t just show them the power of their imagination, but you show them the power of discipline and hard work and of teamwork, as well.

    And these young people don’t just become accomplished singers and painters and authors. They also become better students, they become better leaders, and they become better citizens, enriching not just themselves but their communities, teaching younger children the skills that they’ve learned, beautifying neighborhoods with murals and lifting their communities with their performances.

    Ultimately, each of your programs is using achievement in the arts as a bridge to achievement in life. And you see all this every day, each and every one of you working so hard. You see this in your students as they become more confident and more engaged and more willing to take risks and to take responsibility for their futures. You see it when their academic performance improves, when you see improving attitudes and higher GPAs. And you see young people who never saw themselves as college material, you see them getting those acceptance letters and you see them going on to pursue their degrees. So we all know in this room the power of the arts to change young people’s lives.

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