Joining the media mogul to receive this year’s Kennedy Center Honors were musicians Paul McCartney and Merle Haggard, dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones and lyricist Jerry Herman.
None other than Oscar winner and good pal Julia Roberts did the introduction before Oprah was given the honor.
Then Oprah’s mentor Barbara Walters, sitting onstage on a mock Oprah set, said of the 56-year-old talk show host, “Simply put, she is the best interviewer ever.” She added modestly, “No one comes close, not even me. Those of you who know me know how painful it was for me to say that.”
Jennifer Hudson drew a standing ovation for a powerful, rafters-shaking version of I’m Here, from The Color Purple, the movie a young Oprah starred in and later produced as a Broadway musical.
At a reception earlier in the East Room of the White House, President Barack Obama said that the honorees possessed “a staggering amount of talent.” But, he added, that was not the sole reason they had been chosen. “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,” the president said.
Other presenters and/or performers included Sheryl Crow, Matthew Morrison, Kid Rock, Gwen Stefani, Gayle King, Diana Ross, Colin Powell, Chris Rock and 30 Rock‘s Alec Baldwin.
CBS will air its annual telecast of the ceremonies on December 28