Bush gets trib­utes at Kennedy Cen­ter Hon­ors pro­gram

The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY) - - Kickoff - Pho­tos and text from wire ser­vices

WASH­ING­TON>> Last year’s Kennedy Cen­ter Hon­ors cer­e­mony was al­most over­shad­owed by con­tro­versy sur­round­ing the sit­ting pres­i­dent. This year’s event took place in the shadow of the death of a for­mer com­man­derin-chief.

Sun­day night’s cer­e­mony hon­or­ing life­time artis­tic achieve­ment fea­tured mul­ti­ple trib­utes to for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush, who died Fri­day night at age 94.

The night kicked off with an ex­tended stand­ing ova­tion in Bush’s mem­ory at the re­quest of host­ess Glo­ria Este­fan.

“I think it’s ap­pro­pri­ate to rec­og­nize the pass­ing of a won­der­ful man who ded­i­cated his life to ser­vice and who gra­ciously at­tended this event many times dur­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion, laugh­ing, ap­plaud­ing, singing along and even shed­ding a tear from right up there in the pres­i­den­tial box,” said Este­fan, who re­called be­ing in­vited to the White House and how Bush “lit­er­ally spent 45 min­utes pa­tiently talk­ing to my eight-yearold son” about how the gov­ern­ment worked.

Within days of that White House visit, Este­fan’s tour bus was in a se­ri­ous ac­ci­dent that left her nearly par­a­lyzed and Pres­i­dent Bush called her in the hos­pi­tal, she said.

For the sec­ond straight year, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and first lady Me­la­nia Trump de­clined an in­vi­ta­tion to the awards. They re­turned to Wash­ing­ton be­fore dawn Sun­day from the Group of 20 sum­mit in Argentina.

The Trumps skipped last year’s cer­e­mony af­ter sev­eral of the hon­orees — most no­tably left­ist tele­vi­sion pro­ducer Nor­man Lear — threat­ened to boy­cott if he at­tended. This year, no­body is­sued that kind of overt threat, but the Trumps still an­nounced three weeks ago that they wouldn’t at­tend.

David Ruben­stein, the chair­man of the board for the Kennedy Cen­ter, said af­ter in­ter­mis­sion that he of­ten thinks about the val­ues Bush brought to pub­lic ser­vice.

“I never met a more de­cent man, a more phil­an­thropic per­son, a more gen­uine per­son,” Ruben­stein said.

Bush at­tended the Kennedy Cen­ter Hon­ors for most years dur­ing his pres­i­dency — and even af­ter­ward, dur­ing his son’s pres­i­dency — but like other lead­ers, he was pulled away by ma­jor is­sues that de­manded his time. Bush didn’t at­tend in 1989 be­cause he was at a sum­mit in Malta. Jimmy Carter missed the 1979 awards be­cause of the Iran hostage cri­sis. Bill Clin­ton was on his way to a con­fer­ence dur­ing the 1994 Kennedy Cen­ter awards.

Trump, how­ever, is the first pres­i­dent to miss them twice.

Had he gone to the Kennedy Cen­ter, he might have faced op­po­si­tion from at least some of the hon­orees, in­clud­ing Cher and Lin-Manuel Mi­randa.

Trump and his ad­min­is­tra­tion have put un­prece­dented dis­tance be­tween them­selves and the arts and sci­ence com­mu­ni­ties. No arts or hu­man­i­ties medals have been an­nounced or handed out since Septem­ber 2016, when Barack Obama was pres­i­dent — the long­est gap by months since the awards were es­tab­lished in the mid-1980s.

KEVIN WOLF — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

2018Kennedy Cen­ter Hon­orees, front row form left, Wayne Shorter, Cher, Reba McEn­tire, Philip Glass, back row from left, the co-cre­ators of “Hamil­ton,” Thomas Kail, Lin-Manuel Mi­randa, Andy Blanken­buehler, Alex La­camoire pose for the group photo at the State Depart­ment for the Kennedy Cen­ter Hon­ors State Depart­ment Din­ner on Satur­day in Wash­ing­ton.

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