Biden awards recipients of the National Medal of Arts and National Medal of Humanities

George Washington once said, “The arts and sciences [are] essential to the prosperity of the State and…the ornament and happiness of human life.” President Joseph Biden quoted this before honoring 23 artists who have made significant contributions to the arts and sciences on March 21.
The National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medals were awarded last Tuesday. The recipients were nominated in 2021 but the ceremony was postponed to 2023 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The National Medal of Arts honors outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts in the United States.
Past recipients of this award include singer Aretha Franklin, comic book writer Stan Lee and actress Meryl Streep. These awards were created in 1984 by Congress and are the highest honors given to artists by the United States government.
The National Endowment for the Arts initiates the selection process for the awards by soliciting nominations from the public and various arts fields. The nominations are then reviewed by the National Council on the Arts— who are composed of presidentially appointed individuals. The Council’s list is then sent to the U.S. president where they make their own considerations.
Created in 1997, the National Humanities Medal honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities and broadened our citizens’ engagement with history, literature, languages, philosophy and other humanities. For both the Humanities and Arts Medals,up to 12 people can be nominated.
Past National Humanities Medal recipients include director Steven Spielberg, The National World War II Museum and singer Elton John.
The President selects recipients of the National Humanities Medal in consultation with the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The NEH initiates and administers the nomination and selection process. Recommendations are then sent to the president for consideration with candidates of the president’s own choosing.
“The work of our honorees is as diverse as the nation that celebrates with them today,” said Biden.
Actress Mindy Kaling, who starred in the television series “The Office,” was awarded the National Medal of Arts. She is the first woman of color to create, write and star in a primetime sitcom. Actor and comedian Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who starred in shows “Veep” and “Seinfeld,” collected another award in addition to her 11 Emmys.
“[Dreyfus] embraces life’s absurdity with absolute wit and handles real-life turns with absolute grace…she is an American original,” Biden said.
New Jersey native, Bruce Springsteen, was also awarded this prestigious award. He adds this award alongside his Presidential Medal of Freedom and 20 Grammys. “A chronicler of American life and resilience and hope and dreams,” said Biden.
The National Humanities Medal was awarded to writer Colson Whitehead. He wrote two back-to-back winning Pulitzer Prize novels: “The Underground Railroad” and “The Nickel Boys”.
“…He’s one of America’s great storytellers, bringing a fresh perspective to the legacy of the original sin of slavery, elevating our nation’s consciousness around truth and justice,” said Biden.
Poet Richard Blanco, who read his poem “One Today” at former president Barack Obama’s second presidential inauguration, received this honor as well. Biden said his poetry “…bridges cultures and languages — a mosaic of our past, our present, and our future — reflecting a nation that is hectic, colorful, and still becoming.”
One by one, the 23 recipients went up to receive their medals from President Biden. Ending the ceremony, Biden said “You’re amazing. And you do make the country better. You make us a better place. You make us a better place.”