Obama Honors Meryl Streep, James Taylor, Harper Lee at Ceremony

Singer James Taylor
Singer James Taylor speaks to the media in the briefing room after he was presented with the 2010 National Medal of Arts. Photographer: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep, Grammy-award winner singer-songwriter James Taylor, and Pulitzer-prize winning author Harper Lee were among the 20 recipients of the National Medal of Arts and the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama.

“There are people here whose books, or poetry, or works of history shaped me,” Obama said today before presenting the medals in the White House East Room. “Works of art, literature, works of history, they speak to our condition and they affirm our desire for something more, something better.”

Also awarded medals were music producer Quincy Jones, jazz musician Sonny Rollins, poet Donald Hall, artist Mark di Suvero, pianist Van Cliburn, and playwright and critic Robert Brustein as today’s recipients of the 2010 National Medal of Arts. The president will also present a medal to Jacob’s Pillow Dance festival, an international dance festival.

The medals are the highest government award given to artists and patrons of the arts. First lady Michelle Obama was also at today’s ceremony. Streep and Lee didn’t attend.

The president awarded the 2010 National Humanities Medal to Philip Roth, who has written 24 novels and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for “American Pastoral,” and Joyce Carol Oates, who has penned more than 50 novels, short stories, poetry and nonfiction.

Author and editor Gordon Wood, biographer and critic Arnold Rampersad, president of the American Council of Learned Societies Stanley Nider Katz, literary critic Roberto González Echevarría, poet and author Wendell E. Berry, teacher Jacques Barzun, author Bernard Bailyn, and founding president of the Library of America Daniel Aaron were among today’s recipients of the National Humanities Medal.

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