LL Cool JGloria EstefanLionel RichieCarmen de Lavallade, and Norman Lear are this year’s five recipients of the 40th Kennedy Center Honors.


The group attended a dinner in their honor hosted by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Dec. 2. The evening was filmed and will air Dec. 29 on CBS. Other stars attended and walked the red carpet, including Dave ChappelleEva LongoriaStevie Wonder, and Meryl Streep.

Though full of stars, the evening was rife with politics, even thought Donald Trump did not attend. This was only the fourth time in four decades that the sitting president skipped the annual gala. According to his office, Trump did not attend to avoid “political distraction,” though his absence may have stirred the pot even more.

“We happen to have somebody in the White House who doesn’t care about the arts and humanities,” said Lear, the television producer and progressive activist who received the lifetime artistic achievement award. “I think he was smart to stay away and stay out of town — which is something he does on weekends anyway. Nothing new.”

Julie Andrews was the emcee for the evening, and urged attendees to “step away from divisive discourse. Nancy Pelosi tried to abide by that thought, saying, “Art helps us understand each other. I truly believe this: whatever political party, our differences are shed when you engage in the arts.”

When Estefan accepted her award, she spoke broadly about immigration. “People here think you can never lose this, but you can lose this. We all have to stand up for what this country is, for its values,” she said.

At the start of the evening, Caroline Kennedy opened the program with a quotation from her father and the event’s namesake, John F. Kennedy: “The men who create power make an indispensable contribution to the nation’s greatness, but the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensable, especially when that questioning is disinterested, for they determine whether we use power or power uses us.”

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