President Biden used a White House ceremony honoring artists and academics to drop his latest indication that he will seek reelection next year, describing honoree Colson Whitehead as “the only novelist to win the Pulitzer Prize for back-to-back works,” before adding, “I’m kind of looking for back to back myself.”
The event celebrated recipients of the 2021 National Medals of Arts, as well 2021 National Humanities Medals. The event gave Biden a chance for some lighthearted moments with well-known celebrity recipients.
Bruce Springsteen, the Grammy-winning, New Jersey-born rocker, was among the recipients of the National Medals of Arts. At the event Biden described Springsteen as a “chronicler of American life and resilience and hope and dreams.” Biden also touted Springsteen’s lengthy career, which started decades ago when he was a teenager and has ballooned to include 3,000 concerts around the world.
“Bruce, some people are just born to run, man,” Biden said, referring to one of Springsteen’s best known songs.
Another honoree for the Arts Medals was Mindy Kaling, the comedic actress and writer whose work was featured in NBC’s “The Office,” which was set in Biden’s hometown of Scranton, Pa. At the event, Biden joked “Scranton, Pennsylvania, made her who she is.”
Biden teased the actress who played Selina Meyer, the bumbling vice president turned commander in chief on HBO’s “Veep.” Biden, himself a former vice president once dubbed “the Lamborghini of gaffes,” greeted the honoree as “my friend President Julia Louis-Dreyfus.” Then, Biden added, “I’m going to talk with Julia later whether she liked being V.P. or president better. I got to figure it out.”
Other 2021 National Medals of Arts recipients include fashion designer Vera Wang, singer Gladys Knight, artist Judith Francisca Baca; painter Antonio Martorell-Cardona; arts educator and LGBTQI+ activist Fred Eychaner; musician José Feliciano; producer Joan Shigekawa; the Billie Holiday Theatre; and the International Association of Blacks in Dance.
Whitehead, a recipient of the National Humanities Medal, previously won Pulitzers for his 2016 novel, “The Underground Railroad,” and for his 2019 book, “The Nickel Boys.” Other 2021 National Humanities Medals honorees recognized on Tuesday included poet and author Richard Blanco, social historian Earl Lewis, novelists Ann Patchett and Amy Tan, writer Tara Westover, biographer Walter Isaacson, educator Henrietta Mann, Native America Calling, and anthropologist Johnnetta Betsch Cole, the former president of Spelman College and the first Black woman to hold that title.
Elton John, one of Biden’s favorite musicians, also was a recipient of the 2021 National Humanities Medal but was given his medal when he performed at the White House last September.