Without Trump, Kennedy Center honors Lionel Richie and Gloria Estefan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With the notable absence of President Donald Trump, the Kennedy Center on Sunday celebrated singers Lionel Richie and Gloria Estefan, rapper LL Cool J, television producer Norman Lear and dancer Carmen de Lavallade with honors for the arts.

2017 Kennedy Center Honorees (seated L-R) dancer,actress and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade, TV writer Norman Lear, Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan and (standing L-R) Rapper LL Cool J and singer and songwriter Lionel Ritchie pose for a group photo at the conclusion of a gala dinner at the U.S. State Department, in Washington, U.S., December 2, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

The awards, known as the Kennedy Center Honors, are considered the top recognition in the country for artists across a variety of fields, and the annual event’s importance is usually highlighted by a White House reception with the president and the first lady.

Not this year.

The White House said in August that Trump and his wife, Melania, would not attend the performance so that honorees could enjoy it “without any political distraction.” The White House reception was also canceled after some of the honorees said they would boycott it.

A subtle undercurrent of displeasure with Trump, a Republican who entered office in January, and his policies underlined a reception at the State Department on Saturday night ahead of the awards show.

“Art transcends borders, cultures, politics,” actress Julie Andrews said. “This event gives us an opportunity to step away from divisive discourse and appreciate excellence in art that has been created for everyone.”

All of the recipients expressed joy over receiving the awards.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R) chats with 2017 Kennedy Center Honorees singer Lionel Ritchie (L) and Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan at the conclusion of a gala dinner at the U.S. State Department, in Washington, U.S., December 2, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

“I’ve never been more inspired,” Hip Hop artist and actor LL Cool J, 49, who stars in the television show “NCIS Los Angeles” told Reuters. “It’s a reminder that art matters.” He said Trump’s presence would have been a distraction.

Singer and songwriter Richie, known for hits such as “Three Times a Lady,” “Say You, Say Me,” and “All Night Long,” said he was proud. “Never thought in my life I’d lose my voice talking too much about how excited I am about being here,” Richie said.

Singer…

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