Actor George Clooney, musician Amy Grant, singer Gladys Knight, composer Tania León, and rock band U2 were honoured for their contributions to the arts on Sunday at a White House reception and a Kennedy Center Honors performance that was jam-packed with music.

The Kennedy Center ceremony, which is now in its 45th year, honours celebrities from the worlds of music, theatre, and film for their contributions to American culture.

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President Joe Biden spoke to each artist individually at a reception for the five awardees held at the White House. He praised each artist’s unique talents and said they each exemplified the national spirit.

Together with Nick Vanoff, George Stevens Jr. founded the Kennedy Center Honors and organised the inaugural banquet in 1978. He served as producer and co-writer up until the 2014 awards, at which point he sold the Kennedy Center the production rights.

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With the exception of closed-circuit locations, this awards presentation does not air live; instead, an edited version lasting roughly two hours is often broadcast on CBS after Christmas. The 2019 Kennedy Center Honors deviated from precedent by airing on regular television in early December and then being made available on CBS All Access.

Typically, the ceremony airs on CBS television between Christmas and New Year’s, but this year’s broadcast aired before those holidays. The 2020 edition was eventually held between May 17 and May 22, 2021, as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic; the modified broadcast aired on June 6, 2021.

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The Kennedy Center established a Special Honors Advisory Committee, which is made up of prior honorees, notable artists, and two members of the board of trustees. Honoree proposals are welcomed by the general public.

The honoured honorees are chosen by the executive committee of the board of trustees based on their excellence in music, dance, theatre, opera, motion pictures, or television. Usually, between July and September, the winners are revealed.