LL Cool J, Gloria Estefan, Lionel Richie among 2017 Kennedy Center honorees

"To be the first rap artist honored by the @KennedyCenter is beyond anything I could have imagined," LL Cool J wrote on Instagram.
By Karen Butler  |  Updated Aug. 3, 2017 at 12:58 PM
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Aug. 3 (UPI) -- Carmen de Lavallade, Gloria Estefan, LL Cool J, Norman Lear and Lionel Richie are the 2017 Kennedy Center honorees.

The ceremony is to be broadcast Dec. 26 on CBS.

"The Kennedy Center Honors spotlights the extraordinary careers of five artists whose talent and ingenuity have enriched and shaped cultural life in America," Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein said in a statement Thursday. "Carmen de Lavallade is a national treasure whose elegance and talent as a dancer led to a career touching many art forms; international superstar Gloria Estefan has influenced American music through her infectious Miami sound; landmark hip-hop artist LL Cool J taught the world how to rhyme as one of the pioneers of the hip-hop phenomenon; Norman Lear spoke to the human condition and sparked poignant cultural conversations with some of the most epochal TV sitcoms of the 20th century; and Lionel Richie's irresistibly recognizable melodies capture the heart and transcend generations."

"This is a truly exceptional slate of honorees -- made even more special by the fact that we will honor these artists as we also celebrate four decades of the Kennedy Center Honors," added Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter. "Each of this year's honorees became known to and loved by the world because of their complete originality and bold genius. They are creators of the highest order, and as President Kennedy's living memorial, the Kennedy Center is so proud to shine a light on their boundless 'contributions to the human spirit."

The star-studded celebration on the Kennedy Center Opera House stage is to take place on Dec. 3. The honorees will be seated with U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania as their fellow artists pay tribute to them.

"The president and the first lady will receive the honorees, distinguished former honorees and members of the cast, along with the Kennedy Center board of trustees, at the White House prior to the performance and gala. The 2017 Kennedy Center Honors concludes with a gala dinner in the Grand Foyer," CBS announced in a press release.

"Little did I imagine when my parents brought me as a toddler to the United States from Cuba, in order to be able to raise me in freedom, that I would be receiving one of this nations greatest honors," Estefan wrote on Instagram. "I feel privileged to be included in the galaxy of stars that have received the Kennedy Center Honors and I am grateful to be considered among the many talents in this great country that have been bestowed this exceptional accolade."

"If anything can bring us hope & encouragement in these difficult times, it has to be the arts and humanities. TY @kencen for this honor," Lear tweeted.

"This year's @kencen Honorees were just announced and I'm incredibly honored to be part of the 2017 class!" Richie posted on his Twitter feed.

"What an honor! Geoffrey would be so proud! Thank you @kencen for recognizing the power of the arts to transform lives!" de Lavallade said, referring to her late husband, Geoffrey Holder.

"My late grandmother passed some wise advice to me: 'If a task is once begun, never leave it 'til it's done. Be thy labor great or small, do it well or not at all.' That adage has guided everything I have ever done in my life and I couldn't be more grateful because it has led me here," LL Cool J wrote on Instagram. "To be the first rap artist honored by the @KennedyCenter is beyond anything I could have imagined. I dedicate this honor to the hiphop artists who came before me and those who came after me. This simply proves that dreams don't have deadlines. God is great."

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