CBSN

President Obama honors artists, actors and authors at National Medal of Arts ceremony

U.S. President Barack Obama awards the 2015 National Medal of Arts to comedian, actor and director Mel Brooks at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 22, 2016.

REUTERS/Gary Cameron

President Barack Obama honored Mel Brooks and Morgan Freeman, among others, for their contribution to the arts Thursday.

The two performers were part of a group of 12 who received the 2015 National Medal of Arts at a White House ceremony. Obama says those being honored are the best in their field and give every piece of themselves to their craft.

“The arts and humanities are in many ways reflective of our national soul, they’re central to who we are as Americans, dreamers and storytellers and innovators and visionaries,” he said. “They’re what helps us make sense of the past, the good and the bad, they’re how we chart a course for the future while leaving something of ourselves for the next generation to learn from.”

Other winners this year include composer Philip Glass, actress and singer Audra McDonald, author Sandra Cisneros and painter Jack Whitten. Musician Santiago Jimenez Jr. and playwright Moises Kaufman round out the list.

“Their paths and their mediums could hardly be more different, and that’s what makes them great,” Mr. Obama said. “They take their piece of this big, bold, diverse, energetic country, they reshape it and then they share it with us.”

Mr. Obama also honored winners of the 2015 National Humanities Medal, including celebrity chef Jose Andres, jazz legend Wynton Marsalis, public radio host Terry Gross and author James McBride. Authors Rudolfo Anaya, Louis Menand and Ron Chernow are also on the list.