Jeffrey Katzenberg, Linda Ronstadt among artists honored at White House

Last Updated Jul 28, 2014 3:50 PM EDT

DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, singer Linda Ronstadt and public radio talk show host Diane Rehm are among those that President Obama on Monday honored at the White House for their contributions to the arts and humanities.

"Your accomplishments have enriched our lives," Mr. Obama said from the East Room of the White House.

He called the arts and humanities "central" to the American experience, adding, "The moments you help create, moments of understanding or awe or joy or sorrow -- they add texture to our lives."

Katzenberg and Ronstadt are two of the 12 recipients of the 2013 National Medal of Arts, the highest award the government gives to artists and arts patrons. Rehm is one of 10 recipients of the 2013 National Humanities Medal, given to those who have contributed to the nation's understanding of the humanities or the public's engagement with subjects like history or literature.

The full list of 2013 recipients can be found here.

The awards are granted by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, respectively, which Congress established as independent federal agencies in 1965.

The president recalled a historic anecdote about Abraham Lincoln, in which the president gathered his cabinet to present the Emancipation Proclamation -- but opened the meeting with a story written by humorist Artemus Ward.

"To be clear, I probably will not be trying this in my cabinet meetings," Mr. Obama said. But what Lincoln understood, he said, is that "the arts and humanities aren't just there be consumed when we have a free moment in our lives.... We need them, like medicine. They help us live."

Mr. Obama also mentioned the ways in which a few of the 2013 honorees influenced his own life -- "I told Linda Ronstadt I had a little crush on her back in the day," he said.

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