The president presented the National Medal of the Arts to graphic designer Milton Glaser; architect Maya Lin; soprano Jessye Norman; Charleston, S.C., Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr.; conductor Michael Tilson Thomas; composer John Williams; actress/dancer Rita Moreno; and painter/sculptor Frank Stella. Singer-songwriter Bob Dylan and filmmaker Clint Eastwood were also named recipients of the honor but were not at the White House for the ceremony, which also honored the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the School of American Ballet.
The National Humanities Medal was awarded to Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel; historians Robert A. Caro, Annette Gordon-Reed, David Levering Lewis and William H. McNeill, as well as White House speechwriter Theodore Sorensen; former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Philippe de Montebello; and philanthropist Albert H. Small.
In a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Obama said the arts and humanities "enrich the mind, and nourish the soul, and strengthen the character of this country."
"They bring us joy," he said. "They bring us understanding and insight. They bring us comfort in good times and, perhaps especially, in difficult times in our own lives and in the life of our nation."