WASHINGTON (CNN) — During an awards ceremony at the White House, President Barack Obama whispered in the ear of superstar musician Linda Ronstadt that he once had a crush on her.
The President admitted to the crowd afterwards that, “I told Linda Ronstadt I had a crush on her back in the day ” Ronstadt joined Obama on stage, along with 11 other recipients of the 2013 National Medal of Arts.
No word from the singer of such aptly-named hits as, “You’re no good,” and, “Desperado,” – on what she said back to the President.
Obama also thanked NPR Radio talk show host Diane Rehm, another Medal of Arts winner, for interviewing him when he was a struggling writer, and long before he was President.
“I’ve been personally touched by all sorts of these folks. ” Adding, “I know all of you have been touched similarly by all of these amazing people. We are very grateful to you.”
The National Endowment of the Arts, which manages the awards, says “The National Medal of Arts is the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the federal government. It is awarded by the President of the United States to individuals or groups who are deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support, and availability of the arts in the United States.”
Mr. Obama says all of the honorees have brought the world, “Moments of understanding or awe or joy or sorrow, they add texture to our lives. They are not incidental to the American experience, they are central to it. They are essential to it. So we not only congratulate you this afternoon, we thank you for an extraordinary lifetime of achievement.”
The White House released this list of all of 2013’s honorees:
Julia Alvarez, novelist, poet, and essayist, for her extraordinary storytelling. In poetry and in prose, Ms. Alvarez explores themes of identity, family, and cultural divides. She illustrates the complexity of navigating two worlds and reveals the human capacity for strength in the face of oppression.
Brooklyn Academy of Music, presenter, for innovative contributions to the performing and visual arts. For over 150 years, BAM has showcased the works of both established visionaries and emerging artists who take risks and push boundaries.
Joan Harris, arts patron, for supporting creative expression in Chicago and across our country. Her decades of leadership and generosity have enriched our cultural life and helped countless artists, dancers, singers, and musicians bring their talents to center stage.
Bill T. Jones, dancer and choreographer, for his contributions as a dancer and choreographer. Renowned for provocative performances that blend an eclectic mix of modern and traditional dance, Mr. Jones creates works that challenge us to confront tough subjects and inspire us to greater heights.
John Kander, musical theater composer, for his contributions as a composer. For more than half a century, Mr. Kander has enlivened Broadway, television, and film through songs that evoke romanticism and wonder and capture moral dilemmas that persist across generations.
Jeffrey Katzenberg, director and CEO of DreamWorks, for lighting up our screens and opening our hearts through animation and cinema. Mr. Katzenberg has embraced new technology to develop the art of storytelling and transform the way we experience film.
Maxine Hong Kingston, writer, for her contributions as a writer. Her novels and non-fiction have examined how the past influences our present, and her voice has strengthened our understanding of Asian American identity, helping shape our national conversation about culture, gender, and race.
Albert Maysles, documentary filmmaker, for rethinking and remaking documentary film in America. One of the pioneers of direct cinema, he has offered authentic depictions of people and communities across the globe for nearly 60 years. By capturing raw emotions and representations, his work reflects the unfiltered truths of our shared humanity.
Linda Ronstadt, musician, for her one-of-a-kind voice and her decades of remarkable music. Drawing from a broad range of influences, Ms. Ronstadt defied expectations to conquer American radio waves and help pave the way for generations of women artists.
Billie Tsien and Tod Williams, architects (receiving individual medals), for their contributions to architecture and arts education. Whether public or private, their deliberate and inspired designs have a profound effect on the lives of those who interact with them, and their teaching and spirit of service have inspired young people to pursue their passions.
James Turrell, visual artist, recognized for his groundbreaking visual art. Capturing the powers of light and space, Mr. Turrell builds experiences that force us to question reality, challenging our perceptions not only of art, but also of the world around us.
By Matthew Hoye