On December 7, 1980, Leonard Bernstein received the Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts. His co-recipients were James Cagney, Leontyne Price, Lynn Fontanne, and Agnes de Mille.
At the White House reception for the honorees, President Jimmy Carter said:
“Leonard Bernstein single-handedly, or I might say, with both hands and his entire body, as a matter of fact— [laughter] —has brought great music as a vital part of the personal lives of literally millions of Americans and people throughout the world with his deep commitment, his knowledge of communication, his ability as a teacher, and the inner commitment that makes his words and his attitudes a kind of a burning inspiration to those who have admired his own works and the way he interprets and explains the fine works of others. In motion pictures, on Broadway, in the concert hall, and, I am thankful to say, here in the White House, he's been a favorite of us and of millions of his fellow Americans."
Tonight, George Lucas, Carole King, Cicely Tyson, Rita Moreno, andSeiji Ozawa will receive Kennedy Center Honors for their lifetime contributions to American culture.
Rita Moreno and Seiji Ozawa were each important figures in Leonard Bernstein's life. Moreno starred as Anita in the film version of West Side Story, winning an Oscar for her performance, and Maestro Ozawa was an assistant conductor under Bernstein at the New York Philharmonic before leading the Boston Symphony Orchestra for nearly 30 years!
Congratulations to all!