But moments later, Mrs. Pelosi was sitting at three tables of Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, the night presenter, whose appointment once called a "disturbing signal" of the foreign policy motives of the Trump administration. Throughout the night, Mrs. Pelosi patted the shoulder of Mrs. De Lavallade, the dancer and the choreographer who, together with Mr. Lear, refused to meet with the president in the White House. (The offer was later retracted.)
Some of Saturday night's political comments were jocular: David Rubenstein, the president of the Kennedy Center, advised Mr. Tillerson to calm the wrath of Kim Jong-un, the leader North Korean, by offering him a new stylist or Mr. Lear's signature hat.
But much of it meandered into heavier territory, including immigration policy. In a speech, actress Rita Moreno cited a segment of the official mission of the State Department to promote conditions for the improvement of "people everywhere"
"Some of us have shaken the chains for justice issues", said Ms. Moreno, a Puerto Rican friend of the honoree, Ms. Estefan, who is Cuban-American. "Well, my friend, Gloria, tonight it does not escape me that an immigrant girl will honor another."
In accepting the award, Ms. Estefan underscored the fragility of freedom. "People here think you can never lose this, but you can lose it," he said. "We all have to defend what this country is, for its values."
In light of the 40th anniversary of the event, the splendid Sunday tribute (where a single seat costs up to $ 6,000) was even more special. Multi-colored ribbons were covered with cables on the red carpet in the States Hall. The rainbow palette of the medallions illuminated the marble perimeter of the Kennedy Center and the bronze bust of President John F. Kennedy.
And while the night focused on the honorees, Caroline Kennedy opened the program with a quote from her father: "Men who create power make an indispensable contribution to the greatness of the nation, but men who The power of the question makes an equally indispensable contribution, especially when that questioning is disinterested, since they determine whether we use power or power uses us. "
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Among the dozens of tributes – from Stevie Wonder, Misty Copeland, Dave Chappelle and Queen Latifah – had studied at the University of Lavallade at Yale: Meryl Streep.
Mr. Trump criticized Ms. Streep after the Golden Globes in January, which began a year of tension with the artistic community. The president's spring budget proposal suggested eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts. In August, the 16 private members of the Presidential Committee on Arts and Humanities resigned in light of Mr. Trump's response to white nationalist activity in Charlottesville, Virginia.
"This is the moment, year after year, when the president of the United States, the most veteran individual on earth, comes to pay his respects to the artists," said Deborah Rutter, president of the Kennedy Center, in an interview . "The arts are a reflection of what's happening in the US We miss the president, we're sorry he's not here, but we got it completely."
The Kennedy Center Honors will be broadcast by CBS on December 26 at 9 p.m. Oriental.
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