President John F. Kennedy once said, “If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” How wise these words are, from one of the most beloved leaders in history.
Art feeds the soul in a reciprocal way; from the artist who creates it to the person who experiences or appreciates it. Art moves us, inspires us, stirs us to action and makes us feel. Its universal message transcends language barriers and speaks to us on a spiritual, emotional level that often has the capacity to heal hearts and ignite passion.
At its core, art is one of the most honest representations of humanity. Art is so important, in fact, that a brave band of soldiers risked their lives to rescue and preserve it from a tyrannical mad man in World War II.
This year’s distinguished honorees Al Green, Tom Hanks, Patricia McBride, Sting and Lily Tomlin will be recognized for their incomparable artistic contributions that have helped elevate American culture and the human spirit.
The Kennedy Center Honors
The Kennedy Center for the Arts in Washington, D.C. was erected as a symbol of our nation’s living memorial to President John F. Kennedy. It celebrates and showcases the finest examples of the performing arts: from plays to ballets to orchestral scores.
Now in its 37th year, the Kennedy Center Honors was established in 1977 by George Stevens, Jr. as a means of giving “national recognition to living individuals who throughout their lifetimes have made significant contributions to American culture through the performing arts.” Excellence in artistic achievement in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures and television is honored.
The Kennedy Center Honors draws the most distinguished guests in our nation together under one roof to celebrate a handful of extraordinary individuals who have dedicated their lives to artistic expression in a way that has enlivened the cultural pulse of our nation. As the Queen knights worthy individuals in Britain, the President of the United States decorates Kennedy Center Honorees with distinctive medals.
In 2014, Al Green, Tom Hanks, Patricia McBride, Sting and Lily Tomlin will join an elite roster of artists who have been honored with this rare prize, starting with the likes of Fred Astaire and George Balanchine in the first group, spanning generations to include Lucille Ball, Ella Fitzgerald, Steven Spielberg and more.
No other awards ceremony carries such national high distinction and holds the President, the First Lady, Congress, corporate heads and the best artists in their respective field in collective attendance. This fact alone is telling of just how much art means to our country and how vital each honoree’s body of work truly is.
An Important Message
For the avid viewer, the annual televised event is spectacular to behold. The Kennedy Center honorees’ lives are unveiled before them (and us) by cherished friends and esteemed peers. How incredible must it feel to be an honoree? What does it feel like for Paul McCartney, a 2010 Kennedy Center Honoree, to see his life’s work roll out before him while President and First Lady Obama sing along to his songs?
It’s emotional, to be sure. McCartney welled with tears and so did we. Why? Because watching a talented young boy from Liverpool evolved into a prolific artist who is also a founding member of a band that changed the face of music cuts straight to the heart.
The resounding message: The Kennedy Center Honors remind us anything is possible. Watching artists be recognized on such a grand scale renews belief in the arts and ourselves. Above all, we’re given a sense of hope that our own hard work and talents can make a positive difference in the world around us.
“37th Annual Kennedy Center Honors” will air on Tuesday, Dec. 30 (9:00-11:00 PM ET/PT) on CBS.
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Lori Melton is a freelance writer. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.