WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama honored 21 individuals and organizations on Thursday for works that he says have helped Americans connect and understand each other a little better through the arts and humanities.
The honorees included actress Sally Field, author Stephen King and chef Alice Waters. And to paraphrase one of Field's most famous lines, when she accepted her second Oscar for best actress, the president told the group: "We like you. We really like you."
Field, of Los Angeles, received the 2014 National Medal of Arts for showing dignity, empathy and fearlessness in performances that have touched audiences worldwide, as well as for showing those same qualities in her off-screen advocacy for women, LGBT rights and public health.
In highlighting the accomplishments of composer Meredith Monk, he quoted her as saying "I've been in fashion and out of fashion." He then told the audience that as president, he could relate.
King, of Bangor, Maine, also received an arts medal for combining storytelling with analysis of human nature. His works include "Christine," "Cujo" and "The Shining."
Waters, chef-owner of the organic restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, received a National Humanities Medal for her work as a champion of a holistic approach to eating and health.
The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities were created by Congress in 1965 to provide grants to support artistic excellence and creativity, and to advance the understanding and appreciation of history, literature, philosophy and language. Both independent agencies are celebrating their 50th anniversaries this year.
Obama said he loves to celebrate the brilliance of artists, innovators and thinkers.
"They deepen and broaden our great American story and the human story," Obama said.
The president presented each awardee with a medal, and offering a kiss on the cheek to most of the female recipients.
He closed the ceremony by saying he's gotten promises from recipients of a few signed books - and that Waters promised to cook him something but, "nothing unethical."
In all, Obama awarded the National Medal of Arts to 11 people and organizations. He awarded the National Humanities Medal to 10 people and groups.
The remaining recipients included:
National Medal of Arts:
-John Baldessari, visual artist, Venice, California
-Ping Chong, theater director, choreographer and video and installation artist, New York City
-Miriam Colón, actress, theater founder and director, New York City
-The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, New York City
-Ann Hamilton, visual artist, Columbus, Ohio
-Meredith Monk, composer, singer and performer, New York City
-George Shirley, tenor, Ann Arbor, Michigan
-University Musical Society, Performing Arts Presenter, Ann Arbor, Michigan
-Tobias Wolff, author and educator, Stanford, California
National Humanities Medal:
-Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, historian, Auburndale, Massachusetts
-Annie Dillard, author, Key West, Florida
-Clemente Course in the Humanities, Annandale-On-Hudson, New York
-Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, novelist and philosopher, Boston
-Larry McMurtry, novelist, essayist and screenwriter, Archer City, Texas
-Everett L. Fly, architect, San Antonio
-Jhumpa Lahiri, author, New York City
-Fedwa Malti-Douglas, professor and scholar, Rhinebeck, New York
-Vicki Lynn Ruiz, historian, Irvine, California