President Donald Trump on Thursday honored the first class of National Medal of Arts recipients of his presidency. Actor Jon Voight, singer Alison Krauss, Washington public television executive Sharon Percy Rockefeller, and the musicians of the U.S. military received the award.
Congress established the National Medal of Arts in 1984 as the highest U.S. government honor given to artists and art patrons. The National Council on the Arts receives nominations and recommends winners to the president. The White House gave out the medals annually until 2016, the year of the most recent presidential election.
Since he took office, Trump has had a rocky relationship with the arts community. In 2017, he stayed away from the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington because some of the honorees threatened to boycott if he attended. The president skipped the Kennedy Center event again last year and has not said if he will attend this year.
Thursday’s award ceremony at the White House went off without controversy. Voight, who has publicly supported Trump, accompanied the president to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware after the ceremony to pay tribute to the remains of two U.S. service members killed this week in Afghanistan.
“Each of today’s recipients has made outstanding contributions to American society, culture, and life,” Trump said at the award reception. “They exemplify the genius, talent, and creativity of our exceptional nation.”
The president also gave out four National Humanities Medals at Thursday’s ceremony to Teresa Lozano Long, a Texas philanthropist; Patrick O’Connell, the chef and proprietor of the restaurant The Inn at Little Washington in Virginia; mystery writer James Patterson; and the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank based in California. —Lynde Langdon