The recipients of the 45th Kennedy Center Honors have been announced.
The performing artists recognized for their lifetime contributions to American culture include actor and filmmaker George Clooney; contemporary Christian and pop singer Amy Grant; venerable gospel, soul and R&B star Gladys Knight; Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, conductor and educator Tania León; and four Irish musicians you may know best as the rock band U2.
In a statement, bandmates Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr. said they consider America a home away from home.
"In December 1980, we made our first trip across the Atlantic to America," they wrote. "We had big dreams then, fueled in part by the commonly held belief at home that America smiles on Ireland. And it turned out to be true, yet again. But even in the wilder thoughts, we never imagined that 40 years on, we would be invited back to receive one of the nation's greatest honors. It has been a four-decade love affair with the country and its people, its artists, and culture."
Tania León's love affair with U.S. culture began when she arrived as a refugee from Cuba on a "Freedom Flight" in 1967. Now an American citizen, León's contributions to classical music have long been celebrated. This recognition, she said, is particularly meaningful. "Little did I imagine when studying in La Habana that life was going to grace me with such a distinction!" León said in a statement. "My first thoughts went to my ancestors: they believed in my dreams, and what we lacked in material wealth, they made up for in spirit, encouragement, and support."
The Honors are designed to raise money for the Kennedy Center as well as recognize talent and produce an entertaining few hours of television; the annual ceremony is slated for Dec. 4, to be broadcast later on CBS and streamed on Paramount +.
"For nearly a half-century, the Kennedy Center Honors has represented the very best of America's creative culture," said Deborah F. Rutter in a statement announcing the winners. "Now, as the Center completes its yearlong 50th anniversary celebration, I cannot help but think that the Kennedy Center's namesake would surely smile at this celebration that brings us closer to his vision of 'an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft.' "