President Barack Obama on Monday honored several artists, writers and organizations for their contributions to the nation, and pledged to make the arts and humanities a priority for as long as he is in the White House.
Obama bestowed eight National Medal of Arts and nine National Humanities Medals during a ceremony in the White House East Room. Among this year's recipients were actor Al Pacino, poet Rita Dove and the United Service Organization, which holds performances for American service members stationed around the world.
Before awarding the medals, Obama said the arts have the power to bring together people of different backgrounds and beliefs. And he urged the honorees to help mentor a new generation of artists and scholars, saying their role in the nation's future would be equally as important as the next generation of engineers and scientists.
"The arts and humanities do not just reflect America, they shape America," Obama said. "As long as I'm president, I look forward to making sure they are a priority for this country."
Others receiving arts medals:
_ Will Barnet, painter, printmaker and teacher.
_ Emily Rauh Pulitzer, curator, art collector and philanthropist.
_ Martin Puryear, sculptor.
_ Mel Tillis, singer-songwriter.
_ Andre Watts, pianist and teacher.
Receiving medals for the humanities:
_ Kwame Anthony Appiah, philosopher and novelist.
_ John Ashbery, poet.
_ Robert Darnton, author and librarian.
_ Andrew Delbanco, social critic and professor.
_ National History Day, program that celebrates history.
_ Charles Rosen, pianist and author.
_ Teofilo Ruiz, historian and professor.
_ Ramon Saldivar, writer and professor.
_ Amartya Sen, economist.