The president and first lady were in fine form during Sunday night’s Kennedy Center Honors, laughing and holding hands at the event, which recognize the nation’s most culturally influential artists, performers, actors, and musicians.
Wearing a stunning Michael Kors gold lamé dress embellished at the neckline, the first lady dazzled as she entered the East Room of the White House with her husband, who was wearing a smartly-tailored tuxedo and an American flag on his lapel.
Mr Obama honored seven of the country’s most influential artists, including Dustin Hoffman, Chicago bluesman Buddy Guy, late night host David Letterman, ballerina Natalia Markarova, and surviving members of rock band Led Zeppelin.
The festivities later transitioned to the Kennedy Center, where fellow performers put on a show which will be broadcast later this month.
Here’s to you: President Obama and first lady Michelle applaud on the balcony as they attend the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors at the Kennedy Center on Sunday night
Dressed to the nines: President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive at the Kennedy Center Honors reception at the White House on Sunday
Hand in hand: The first couple held hands as they left at the end of the awards ceremony
Recognition: Obama is applauded by the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors recipients
Stars from New York, Hollywood and the music world gathered Sunday in Washington to salute the honorees who were tonight receiving the nation’s highest award for artistically influential Americans.
‘Tonight, we continue a tradition here at the White House by honoring some extraordinary people who have no business being on the same stage together,’ the president began, joking to the recipients.
He hailed the drive and vision of the honorees, noting that many, like blues musician Buddy Guy, grew up in conditions that didn’t foster creativity. Guy, for instance, was born into a family of Louisiana sharecroppers with no electricity or running water.
He went on to pioneer the use of distortion and feedback with his electric guitar.
‘(Their) passion took each of them from humble beginnings to the pinnacle of their profession,’ Mr Obama said, according to The Hill.
Celebrating: Seven people were honored Sunday night, including late-night TV host David Letterman, left, and actor Dustin Hoffman, right
United once more: From left to right, Led Zeppelin members Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and John Paul Jones are honored at the reception
High honor: Kennedy Center Honoree Blues musician Buddy Guy, left, and Russian ballet dancer Natalia Makarova, right, both were recognized at the ceremony
‘Tonight in the People’s House, we have a chance to say thank you.’
Former president Bill Clinton also offered lavish praise to Guy.
‘Buddy Guy’s life is a miracle,’ Clinton said. ‘Just imagine you want to be a guitar player and you get your first strings by tearing off the screen door. … He came from that to this.’
Late-night host David Letterman was one of the seven honored in the annual awards ceremony.
Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel joined in celebrating Letterman’s influence on many other comedians.
Pledging allegiance: The Obamas, joined by Hoffman and Markarova, far left, stood for the National Anthem
Warm embrace: The first lady, right, hugs 2012 Kennedy Center honoree, actor Dustin Hoffman at the Kennedy Center
Full house: The president and first lady can be seen bottom and center at the massive Kennedy Center in Washington
‘I knew Johnny, and I loved Johnny. Johnny was beyond reproach,’ Colbert said in a toast to Letterman. ‘Dave was stupid. Dave was ours. Dave was like us.
‘We wanted to throw things off of buildings. … We would love to stick our heads out the window of 30 Rock and yell at passers-by, `I’m not wearing any pants!”
Colbert marveled at Letterman receiving such an award after he ‘corrupted the minds of a generation.’
Paul Shaffer, Letterman’s longtime band leader, said he knew his boss was uncomfortable hearing such accolades, but that he knew Letterman was enjoying every second of it.
Meryl Streep introduced the honorees Saturday during a formal dinner at the U.S. State Department and noted that Letterman had surpassed his mentor, Johnny Carson, in sustaining the longest late-night television career for more than 30 years.
Comedic gold: Tina Fey, lift, the genius behind NBC’s ’30 Rock,’ dazzled in an elaborate golden gown; right, her co-star Alec Baldwin and his new wife, Hilaria Thomas
Dapper: Actor Morgan Freeman arrived at the 35th Kennedy Center Honors in not-so-basic black
To salute Led Zeppelin, big names from the rock world dressed in black tie for their music heroes as a string ensemble played the band’s hit song ‘Kashmir’ and other tunes at the State Department.
Michelle Obama favored an intricate Michael Kors gold lamé dress embellished at the neckline, from the American designer’s 2013 resort collection.
She accessorized with an elegant updo and gold earrings.
This is the second time in two weeks the first lady has worn a gold ensemble by Kors, wearing a gold Michael Kors suit to the unveiling of the gingerbread White House.
Kors described his collection as being of ‘opulent minimalism,’ inspired by a recent trip to Istanbul.
Foo Fighters singer Dave Grohl said he never took any music lessons when he was starting out because ‘my teachers were Led Zeppelin. … They were the most powerful thing in my life.’
Lenny Kravitz said their influential music, at its zenith in the 1970s, became a lasting part of the culture of rock and roll.
‘It’s very difficult,’ he said. ‘You get four guys that come together and make something so much more powerful than they all are.’
Zeppelin front man Robert Plant said he was flattered and overwhelmed in receiving the American culture prize. He said he was glad to see his former band mates, John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page, using good table manners.
The trio is scheduled to appear Monday on CBS’ ‘Late Show with David Letterman.’ They are often asked if they’ll reunite. Plant told The Associated Press he plans to continue traveling the world and wants to make new music along the way.
‘If anybody wants to write some new songs, I’m game to write songs,’ he said.
Hoffman was honored for charting his own path after taking a junior college class in acting that ‘nobody ever flunks.’ Streep, a 2011 honoree, said Hoffman’s quest to become an actor required waiting tables and typing for the yellow pages by day.
‘He’d do anything if it meant at night he could find himself on the stage,’ she said.
Glenn Close toasted Hoffman for defining the character actor as leading man in such movies as ‘The Graduate,’ ‘Rain Man’ and ‘Tootsie’ – and as an artist who insisted on setting the highest standards for himself.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the ballerina Makarova ‘risked everything to have the freedom to dance the way she wanted to dance’ when she defected from the Soviet Union in 1970.
Makarova quickly made her debut with the American Ballet Theatre and later was the first exiled artist to return to the Soviet Union before its fall to dance with the Kirov Ballet.
Living legend: Singer Aretha Franklin arrives for the event in the East Room of the White House
Fellow late-night host Jimmy Kimmel was in attendance to help recognize Letterman
Praise: Obama spoke highly of bluesman Buddy Guy, left, who came from a humble background
Famous faces: Musician Lenny Kravitz was also at the East Room reception at the White House
Fancy free: Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, center, was dressed in a neutral V-neck dress with a colorful wrap
Clinton also took special note of Letterman, saying he must be wondering what he’s doing in a crowd of talented artists and musicians.
‘Dave and I have a history,’ she said. ‘I have been a guest on his show several times, and if you include references to my pant suits, I’m on at least once a week.’
The crowd of artists and entertainers gave Clinton a standing ovation as she hosted her final salute to the nation’s artists as secretary of State.
Kennedy Center Chairman David Rubenstein gave her a subtle nudge to run for president in 2016, saying there’s another room at the State Department to name after a secretary who later becomes president.
Instagram it? On Saturday, actress Meryl Streep, left, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, right, posed for an iPhone photo, taken by the 2011 Kennedy Center award recipient