Last night in the White House’s East Room, five legendary artists and performers were honored for their unparalleled contributions to America’s cultural heritage. Comedian Mel Brooks, jazz musician David Brubek, opera singer Grace Brumby, rocker Bruce Springsteen and actor Robert DeNiro accepted the award, bestowed upon recipients once a year by the center's trustees and by past honorees. Prior to highlighting the artistic contributions of each recipient, President Obama discussed the importance of the arts in America:
These performers are indeed the best. They are also living reminders of a simple truth -- and I'm going to steal a line from Michelle here -- the arts are not somehow apart from our national life, the arts are at the heart of our national life. (Applause.)
In times of war and sacrifice, the arts -- and these artists -- remind us to sing and to laugh and to live. In times of plenty, they challenge our conscience and implore us to remember the least among us. In moments of division or doubt, they compel us to see the common values that we share; the ideals to which we aspire, even if we sometimes fall short. In days of hardship, they renew our hope that brighter days are still ahead.
So let's never forget that art strengthens America. And that's why we're making sure that America strengthens its arts. It's why we're reenergizing the National Endowment of the Arts. That's why we're helping to sustain jobs in arts communities across the country. It's why we're supporting arts education in our schools, and why Michelle and I have hosted students here at the White House to experience the best of American poetry and music.
And it's why we're honored to celebrate these five remarkable performers, who for decades have helped to sustain and strengthen the American spirit.