US President Joe Biden has welcomed a high-wattage collection of singers, authors, artists and humanitarians to the White House to present them with medals, and then stole the show himself with a quip about seeking re-election.
Bruce Springsteen, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mindy Kaling and Gladys Knight were among the 22 people and organisations being honoured.
When author Colson Whitehead’s award was announced, Biden noted the author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys had already won back-to-back Pulitzer Prizes.
The president, who is expected to announce for re-election, quickly picked it up.
“Pretty good man,” he told Whitehead on Tuesday. “I’m kind of looking for a back-to-back myself,” drawing a laugh from the audience.
Louis-Dreyfus, who channelled Biden’s resume when she starred in Veep, jokingly sagged under the weight when the president placed the medal for the arts around her neck. “Wow!” she exclaimed.
Springsteen was lauded for “his extraordinary contributions to the American songbook, and for being ‘The Boss’”.
Knight, the “empress of soul”, gave the president a giant hug when he put the medal around her neck.
Jaclyn Sallee, who received the medal on behalf of Native America Calling, a podcast and radio show, beamed with pride. So did social historian Earl Lewis, who, according to the president, chronicles African American history and “explores how diversity strengthens our nation.”
Biden joked that he opens his closet to find one recipient, designer Vera Wang, inside – her clothes, anyway – then said, “Your dresses always look beautiful on my wife.”
Actress Mindy Kaling, a main character on the long-running television show, The Office, set in Biden’s hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, received a medal as well.
The medals are Biden’s first batch of awards for the arts and humanities and were delayed by the pandemic.
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