The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has announced its latest cohort of honorees who have had a profound effect on American culture—and as much as each recipient deserves the recognition, it also seems like a pretty solid subtweet at Donald Trump.
The recipients of the 40th annual Kennedy Center awards are Gloria Estefan, LL Cool J (the first hip hop artist to receive the award), Lionel Richie, TV writer and producer Norman Lear, and legendary dancer Carmen de Levallade, one of the first black people to dance with the Metropolitan Opera. Of the five recipients, only one is white, but he did happen to spend his entire career putting families of color and single mothers on television. So it’s a fairly diverse group of heavy hitting pop culture and arts icons.
The award is typically accompanied by a reception and ceremony with the sitting president of the day. It looks like Trump and Melania are attending, which seems awkward, seeing how Trump is America’s patron of gutting the arts and stands diametrically opposed to diversity, immigration, and all the other things the honorees have spent their lives promoting.
While there’s some controversy about whether or not the artists should attend, Gloria Estefan told the New York Times that she plans on using the opportunity to talk to Trump face to face:
“Mr. President, as a proud immigrant of this country, it’s very important for me that you see the wonderful contributions we have made,” Ms. Estefan said she planned to say at the White House reception. “We have seen a lot of anti-immigrant backlash this year, so for us, it may hold even more beauty than for someone who has lived here all their lives. To get this kind of award is so American.”
In an interview with Deadline, Norman Lear said he would not attend the White House reception, and he had some strong words about the president and the arts:
‘If it were held today, I wouldn’t go. I’m not sure I want to visit a White House that has given such a cold shoulder to culture and the arts…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 the wonder and oneness of the human spirit.’
The ceremony takes place on December 3 and will air on December 26; we can only hope Lear will give us the good thought-provoking television he’s known for.