On Thursday, President Barack Obama honored 24 American artists with medals. Among those receiving awards were actor Morgan Freeman, broadway star Audra McDonald, Motown music executive Berry Gordy, journalist Isabel Wilkerson and dancer Ralph Lemon.
“We believe that the arts and the humanities are in many ways reflective of or national soul. They’re central to who we are as Americans: dreamers and storytellers and innovators and visionaries,” Obama said during the ceremony.
When presenting the award to McDonald, the president joked around, especially about the fact that the citation itself had been misplaced.
Although Morgan Freeman was not present for his award. Obama joked that he was likely “off playing a black president again” and joked, “He never lets me have my moment!”
Other artists included Motown producer Berry Gordy as well as author Isabel Wilkerson and dancer Ralph Lemon.
“They’re what help us make sense of the past – the good and the bad – and how we chart a course for the future,” the President added.