President Barack Obama joined stars from stage and screen as they all honored Oprah Winfrey, Paul McCartney and other artists for their lifetimes of work in music, theater and television.
Country singer and songwriter Merle Haggard, Broadway composer Jerry Herman, and dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones were the other honorees at the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors. The event is an annual celebration in Washington.
Obama said: "Although the honorees on this stage each possess a staggering amount of talent, the truth is, they aren't being recognized tonight simply because of their careers as great lyricists or songwriters or dancers or entertainers. Instead, they're being honored for their unique ability to bring us closer together and to capture something larger about who we are -- not just as Americans, but as human beings."
Chris Rock poked fun at Oprah Winfrey, saying: "No one deserves this award more than Oprah Winfrey, but no one needs it less."
Obama also said that Paul McCartney had become "something of a regular in the White House" and called it the "thrill of a lifetime" that he sang the Beatles song "Michelle" to first lady Michelle Obama earlier this year.
Obama said: "I will say he was a little emotive. You have nothing to worry about. I just recovered from my last tussle on the basketball court."
This year's Kennedy Center Honors will air on CBS on December 28.