President Barack Obama greets the Kennedy Center honorees at the White House Sunday. (YURI GRIPAS/REUTERS)

In his remarks, after some light-hearted comments about each of the Honorees, Obama underscored the importance of the arts.

“So each of them have made these extraordinary contributions, and it’s worthwhile, then, for us to commit ourselves to making this a place where the arts can continue to thrive,” he told the audience in the East Room. “Because right now, somewhere in America, there is a future Kennedy Center honoree---practicing on some phone books, or writing songs to impress a girl, or wondering if she can cut it on the big stage. Let’s make sure our young people can dream big dreams, and follow them as far as they can go. And let’s make sure the arts continue to be an important--no, a critical part of who we are in the kind of world that we want to live in.”

Even with silly stuff, the president indicated he doesn’t like the fishbowl of public life. He talked about expressing himself. “That’s why we dance, even if, as Michelle says, I look silly doing it. It is one of the downsides of being President: Your dance moves end up on YouTube,” said Obama. [evidence above] The audience, according to the official transcript, laughed knowingly.

The 2011 Honorees were Meryl Streep, Sonny Rollins, Barbara Cook, Yo-Yo Ma and Neil Diamond. The tributes to the five were taped Sunday night at the Kennedy Center and will air December 27.