A ceremony for the occasion will be held Tuesday in an East Room ceremony at the White House with all of the honorees, minus Puerto Rican musician José Feliciano, as well as first lady Jill Biden set to attend.
The 2021 recipients are receiving their awards about two years late due to a backlog caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The recipients of the National Medals of Arts — the highest honor from the United States government for advancing the country’s arts — include famous actors, comedians and singers. They are Mindy Kaling, Gladys Knight, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Bruce Springsteen, fashion designer Vera Wang, artist-activist Judith Francisca Baca, philanthropist Fred Eychaner, Puerto Rican musician José Feliciano, Puerto Rican painter Antonio Martorell-Cardona and film producer Joan Shigekawa.
The organizations The Billie Holiday Theatre and The International Association of Blacks in Dance will also receive the medal.
The National Humanities Medal honors those who have improved Americans’ understanding and engagement with history, literature, philosophy and more humanities subjects. The 2021 recipients are poet Richard Blanco, anthropologist Johnnetta Betsch Cole, author Walter Isaacson, social historian Earl Lewis, Native American studies academic Henrietta Mann, novelist Ann Patchett, activist Bryan Stevenson, novelist Amy Tan, memoirist Tara Westover and novelist Colson Whitehead, as well as the organization Native America Calling.
In September 2022, Biden awarded British singer Elton John the National Humanities Medal for his contributions to music and fighting AIDS, a disease caused by HIV that attacks the body’s immune system.
John swung by South Lawn for a show called “A Night When Hope and History Rhyme,” a reference to a poem by Irish Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney. At the end of the show, Biden presented John with the medal.
The musician admitted to feeling blown away by the evening and honor, saying, “I will treasure this so much.”
Contributing: Bryan Alexander and Sudiksha Kochi