Every December, magazines come out with "Best Of" and "Top Ten" lists, Barbara Walters initiates a new group of Most Fascinating People, and the Kennedy Center honors a select group of individuals who have made "significant contributions to American culture through the performing arts."
This year, the 36th Annual Kennedy Center Honorees included "The Piano Man" Billy Joel, opera singer Martina Arroyo, jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, actress Shirley MacLaine, and musician and songwriter Carlos Santana. On Sunday Dec. 8, they received their medals at a star-studded gala attended by politicians, celebrities, and the media elite.
President Barack Obama celebrated the lifetime of work that brought each honoree to the event. "Despite all their success, all their fame, they're remained true to themselves," he said. "Their triumphs have lifted our spirits and lifted our nation and left us a better and richer place. And for that we are grateful."
Click through to read more about each honoree.
Actress Kathy Bates celebrated her long-time friend at the ceremony, saying: "You are always, my dear friend, mesmerizing. Your humanity informs your work. You never judge your characters, or your friends."
An eclectic mix of media and pop culture personalities convened Sunday night to celebrate jazz pianist Herbie Hancock. Bill O'Reilly called Hancock a "remarkable American, remarkable artist," while Spoop Dogg took the stage to thank him for creating hip-hop.
Harry Belafonte spoke about Carlos Santana's myriad contributions to the arts: "Even without the music, you Carlos, are an essential humanitarian…but with the music, well, you're a god. …Your music tells us to be happy...to move mountains. It tells us to love."
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor took the stage to honor opera singer Martina Arroyo: "Martina always had the raw talent – a soaring, lyrical, captivating voice that transports her listeners. … I'm convinced Martina's voice couldn't be that beautiful if it weren't connected to a heart that's beautiful. She is the most giving person."
Artists from several different genres came together to pay tribute to Billy Joel. "The hardworking folks he’s met and the music that he’s heard across our nation come through in every note and every lyric that he’s written," President Barack Obama said.