What do Buddy Guy, Dustin Hoffman, David Letterman, ballerina Natalia Makarova and Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant have in common?
Not a lot, said President Barack Obama, describing the odd group as “some extraordinary people who have no business being on the same stage together.”
But they do have one thing in common — they were named tonight as this year’s Kennedy Center honorees, which bestows the nation’s highest award on those who have influenced American culture.
Obama drew laughs when announcing the recipients, particularly roasting Letterman, poking fun at his humble beginnings as an Indianapolis weatherman who once reported hail “the size of canned hams” was coming down, saying “It’s one of the highlights of his career.”
He also thanked the Led Zeppelin members for behaving themselves, since they have a reputation of mayhem.
It’s fitting that we’re doing this in a room with windows that are about three inches thick and Secret Service all around.
However, Obama wasn’t all jokes, as he described the honorees as being people who “inspired us to see things in a new way, to hear things differently, to discover something within us or to appreciate how much beauty there is in the world.”
Famed actress Meryl Streep first introduced the honorees Saturday at a dinner hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“Dave and I have a history,” Clinton said at that event. “I have been a guest on his show several times, and if you include references to my pant suits, I’m on at least once a week.”
CBS will air the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony on Dec. 26.