WESTPORT, Conn. -- Westport sports writer Frank Deford, the director of the "Star Wars" movies, an opera singer and a Harvard scholar were among those who received National Medals of Arts and Humanities from President Barack Obama in a White House ceremony Wednesday.
The medal recipients "used their talents in the arts and the humanities to open up minds and nourish souls, and help us understand what it means to be human, and what it means to be an American," Obama said.
"We celebrate people like our honorees here today not just because of their talent, but because they create something new. They create a new space and that becomes a lasting contribution to American life. And that’s true for all of these honorees."
Obama personally greeted each medalist and put the award around each one's neck, posing for pictures and sharing heartfelt handshakes and some big hugs. As Deford, 74, joined Obama to get his award, the president can be seen smiling, whispering and gesturing with the Westport writer. (Watch above, at about the 24-minute mark.)
"The work that we honor today, the lifetime achievement of these artists and these scholars, reminds us that the human imagination is still the most powerful tool that we have as a people. That’s why we celebrate their creativity and the fundamental optimism, the notion that if they work that hard somebody will actually pay attention. That’s why we have to remain committed to the dreamers and the creators and innovators who fuel that progress and help us light the way ahead, because our children, our grandchildren deserve to grow up in a country where their dreams know no bounds and their ambitions extend as far as their talents and hard work can take them."
Here's a full list of the recipients of the National Medals of Arts and the National Humanities Medals. The 2012 National Medal of Arts award recipients are:
- Herb Alpert
- Lin Arison
- Joan Myers Brown
- Renée Fleming
- Ernest J. Gaines
- Ellsworth Kelly
- Tony Kushner
- George Lucas
- Elaine May
- Laurie Olin
- Allen Toussaint
- Washington Performing Arts Society, Washington, DC
The 2012 National Humanities Medal award recipients are:
- Edward L. Ayers
- William G. Bowen
- Jill Ker Conway
- Natalie Zemon Davis
- Frank Deford
- Joan Didion
- Robert Putnam
- Marilynne Robinson
- Kay Ryan
- Robert B. Silvers
- Anna Deavere Smith
- Camilo José Vergara
The awards are presented in the order above in the video.
To read more about Frank Deford's award, read this story in The Daily Voice .
To read the profile of Deford by the National Endowment for the Humanities, click here .
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