WASHINGTON — Norman Lear, Gloria Estefan, LL Cool J, Carmen de Lavallade and Lionel Richie will be the honorees at the next Kennedy Center Honors, to be held on Dec. 3 and broadcast on CBS on Dec. 26. It will mark the first ceremony of Donald Trump’s presidency.
And there will be a statement of protest.
Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are scheduled to be seated with the honorees during the Kennedy Center ceremony, and they will host a reception with them at the White House earlier in the evening. That in and of itself will be an interesting moment, as Lear and Estefan have been particularly outspoken against Trump and his policies.
A spokeswoman for Lear said that, while he will attend the ceremony, he will not attend the White House reception.
“It is more important now than ever that we stand up for artists, for artistic expression, and for the valiant fight that artists fight to reveal their wonder and oneness of the human spirit,” Lear said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for the Kennedy Center, Eileen Andrews, said the other honorees have indicated they plan to attend the reception and, of course, the ceremony itself.
David Rubenstein the chairman of the Kennedy Center, said in a statement, “The Kennedy Center Honors spotlights the extraordinary careers of five artists whose talent and ingenuity have enriched and shaped cultural life in America.”
He added, “Carmen de Lavallade is a national treasure whose elegance and talent as a dancer led to a career touching many art forms; international superstar Gloria Estefan has influenced American music through her infectious Miami sound; landmark hip hop artist LL Cool J taught the world how to rhyme as one of the pioneers of the hip hop phenomenon; Norman Lear spoke to the human condition and sparked poignant cultural conversations with some of the most epochal TV sitcoms of the 20th century; and Lionel Richie’s irresistibly recognizable melodies capture the heart and transcend generations.”
Estefan will be the first Cuban American honored, while LL Cool J is the first hip hop artist to be recognized.
“Little did I imagine when my parents brought me as a toddler to the United States from Cuba, in order to be able to raise me in freedom, that I would be receiving one of this nations greatest honors,” Estefan said.
What is unclear is whether the Kennedy Center will have any difficulty lining up celebrity figures to pay tribute to any of the honorees, as a number of industry figures declined to perform at Trump’s inauguration. The president is not involved in the selection of honorees.
Rather, the executive committee of the board of trustees of the Kennedy Center approves recommendations made by a special advisory committee. That includes a few board members — Shonda Rhimes, David Bonnet and Cappy McGarr — along with past honorees and artists, including Julie Andrews, Martina Arroyo, Herbie Hancock, Yo-Yo Ma, Chita Rivera and Twyla Tharp.
The board chair, Rubenstein, presents the medallions to the honorees, and the award itself is non-political, Andrews said.
“The producers are in the very early stages of planning for the show,” Andrews said. “No doubt many performers and colleagues will want to perform and pay tribute to these extraordinary Honorees.”
Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way, the group that Lear co-founded, said in a statement that he was “proud of Norman’s announcement that he won’t attend any White House ceremonies associated with this honor. Anyone who knows Norman knows how he reveres the symbols of our democracy, from the Declaration of Independence to the White House itself. And he’s engaged and worked with presidents of both parties throughout his career, from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush to Barack Obama.
“Norman’s refusal to set foot in Donald Trump’s White House is as powerful a reminder as any that the hate and bigotry that Donald Trump espouses on a daily basis isn’t business-as-usual, it’s a threat to the civic compact upon which this nation was founded.”