George Lucas, Sidney Poitier to be honored

Call it the supreme Hollywood-Washington power moment.

President and Mrs. Barack Obama joined a celeb-packed audience Feb. 11 for the Ford’s Theater annual fund-raising gala, which included awards to George Lucas and Sidney Poitier to honor the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.

Even President Lincoln showed up for the occasion — actually actor David Selby, who plays Lincoln in Ford’s production of new play “The Heavens Are Hung in Black.” Selby performed a scene from the play and presented a bound copy of the Gettysburg Address to Obama.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were among the gaggle of lawmakers and cabinet appointees on hand. Actor Richard Thomas emceed a program that included appearances by James Earl Jones, Ben Vereen, Kelsey Grammer, Jeffrey Wright, Katie Couric, Audra McDonald and Jessye Norman.

Occurring the day Congress reached accord on its economic stimulus package, the gala event had become a hot ticket after Obama, a noted Lincoln devotee, decided to attend with the first lady.

Couple’s participation is seen as a promising indicator that they will become frequent patrons of arts events in D.C. It’s their second such outing after the inauguration, following the previous week’s visit to the Kennedy Center for a performance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

“Michelle and I are so pleased to be here to rededicate this hallowed space,” Obama said. “We know that Ford’s Theater will remain a place where Lincoln’s legacy thrives.”

The event was the undisputed highlight of a celebratory week for the historic theater, which has just reopened after an 18-month renovation in time for the bicentennial. Venue where Lincoln was assassinated has become a shrine to the Civil War president and will include a new education center devoted to the study of Lincoln.

Lucas and Poitier received Lincoln Medals from the Ford’s Theater Society for exemplifying the character embodied by the 16th U.S. president. Poitier, gazing down on the country’s first African-American president seated in the first row, said he was especially humbled by the honor and the occasion.

Another highlight was provided by violinist Joshua Bell, who, backed by a choir, performed “My Lord, What a Morning” on a violin last played at Ford’s on April 14, 1865 — the night Lincoln was assassinated.

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