Biden presents Springsteen, Feliciano with National Medal of Arts

Washington, Mar 21 (EFE).- President Joe Biden on Tuesday hailed the contributions of singer-songwriters Bruce Springsteen and Jose Feliciano to the world of the arts by presenting them with the National Medal of the Arts, a prestigious honor that he also awarded to 21 other people and organizations.

The ceremony in the East Room of the White House made up for what the coronavirus pandemic had delayed, namely the opportunity to present the award to a backlog of deserving people and organizations to recognize their work in favor of the arts in the United States.

In his remarks to the packed East Room during the ceremony, Biden paraphrased George Washington’s statement that the greatness of a nation is measured not only by the strength of its military, the size of its territory or its economy, but also by the vitality of its culture.

Biden praised the 23 awardees on this occasion, amid applause from those attending the ceremony, as “masters of your craft,” adding that their excellence is reflected in the areas of literature, music, poetry and fashion.

“The Boss is here,” joked Biden upon presenting the award to Springsteen, who is nicknamed “The Boss” and widely held to be one of the best artists and storytellers in the US and whose work, according to the White House, has captured the essence of what is means to be American.

The 73-year-old singer and composer of classics like “Born in the U.S.A.” (1984) on Feb. 1 launched the first tour with his E Street Band since the one he undertook in 2017, and at the ceremony he received one of the most enthusiastic rounds of applause to chants of “Bruce!”

Puerto Rico singer-songwriter Jose Feliciano was unable to attend the ceremony because he is presently on tour, but his absence did not prevent Biden from praising him. Blind from birth, Feliciano began playing the guitar at age 9 and his music has contributed to uniting cultures and styles, opening the door to generations of Latino artists, the president said.

The National Medal of the Arts, the highest decoration that the US government bestows on artists from all sectors, was also presented to fashion designer Vera Wang for how she has made beauty and style “accessible” to all, and Biden joked to the designer that “Your dresses always look beautiful on my wife.”

Actresses Mindy Kaling (“The Office”) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Seinfeld” and “VEEP”) were among the list of awardees, in both their cases for how they have inspired girls and women by being pioneers for creative new generations, the White House said.

Chicano artist Judith Francisca Baca, Puerto Rican painter and writer Antonio Martorell Cardona, radio station owner and philanthropist Fred Eychaner, singer Gladys Knight – whom Biden called “one of the best things to ever happen in terms of music” – and the Billie Holiday Theatre were also presented with the award.

Biden also bestowed the National Humanities Medal on several honorees for their work contributing to expanding the knowledge of literature and philosophy, as well as other fields in the humanities.

British singer Elton John last September had been presented with the same medal, the one for 2022, in another White House ceremony.

This time around, Cuban-born Richard Blanco received the award, along with anthropologist Johnnetta Betsch Cole, historian Earl Lewis and writer Colson Whitehead, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner.

EFE mgr/ssa/bp

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