WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden welcomed a high-wattage collection of singers, authors, artists and humanitarians to the White House on Tuesday to present them with medals.
Mindy Kaling and “The Joy Luck Club” author Amy Tan were among the 22 people and organizations being honored.
Biden joked that he opens his closet to find one honoree, designer Vera Wang, inside—her clothes, anyway—then said, “Your dresses always look beautiful on my wife.”
Of Tan, Biden said her books “capture the courage, the pain, and the joy…of the immigrant experience, and how their legacy and memory fulfill the promise of America for all Americans.”
Kaling, “the first woman of color to create, write, and star in a primetime sitcom, she empowers a new generation to tell their stories with their own irreverence and sincerity,” Biden said.
The president had trouble with the next AAPI recipient.
“The contribution of Joan Shi- — Shi- —,” stumbled Biden.
Joan Shigekawa said, “Shigekawa.”
Biden replied, “Shigekawa. Thank you. (Laughter.) I have trouble pronouncing. You can call me “Bid-en.” (Laughter.) Shigekawa. Your contributions to art in America is legendary and is lasting. And the head of the National Endowment for the Arts, she’s lifted rural and urban artists, created programs for military families, and helped measure how the art grows the economy—arts grow the economy. And she proves that art makes our country stronger.”
The medals are Biden’s first batch of awards for the arts and humanities and were delayed by the pandemic. The president surprised Sir Elton John with a National Humanities Medal during a White House musical event last September. He told the crowd how important their work was, in keeping American culture alive and reminding people of our history. The honorees work includes dance, art, design, history as well as music, writing and philanthropy.
“You do make the country better, you make it a better place,” Biden told the crowd before they departed for a White House reception.