Biden meets with Kennedy Center honorees at White House

President Joe Biden speaks before signing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (Evan Vucci, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden spent Thursday morning in a star-studded meeting with this year’s Kennedy Center honorees.

The president met at the White House with the recipients of the lifetime artistic achievement awards: country music legend Garth Brooks, dancer and actress Debbie Allen, violin virtuoso Midori, folk music icon Joan Baez and actor Dick Van Dyke. They were joined by the honorees’ guests, the chairman of the board of trustees and the president of the Kennedy Center, and Biden’s sister, Valerie Biden Owens.

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The meeting marked a return to tradition after former President Donald Trump avoided the celebration during his tenure. He dropped the traditional White House invitation for honorees and skipped the ceremony after a number of the 2017 honorees said they would boycott the White House reception in protest against Trump’s policies.

The event itself will be much different from those in years past. The centerpiece event for Washington’s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts normally happens in December, but it was postponed last year amid the pandemic.

The awards program typically centers around a gala in the Kennedy Center’s main theater that includes tributes and performances that are kept secret from the honorees. Now, planners are filming various events across the Kennedy Center campus this week, some with socially-distanced audiences and many without.

The event will air on CBS on June 6.