A famed author from Oakland and a famed singer from San Francisco were among those honored with the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama on Monday at the White House.
Author Maxine Hong Kingston, 73, of Oakland, was honored “for her contributions as a writer,” according to a statement read at the ceremony by a military aide. “Her novels and non-fiction have examined how the past influences our present, and her voice has strengthened our understanding of Asian American identity, helping shape our national conversation about culture, gender and race.”
And singer Linda Ronstadt, 68, of San Francisco, was honored “for her one-of-a-kind voice and her decades of remarkable music. Drawing from a broad range of influences, Ms. Ronstadt defied expectations to conquer American radio waves and help pave the way for generations of women artists.”
The president told these and other honorees:
“Like most creative and brainy people, you did not cultivate your song for accolades or applause. If there were no medal for your work, I expect you’d still be out there designing buildings and making movies and digging through archives and asking tough questions in interviews.
“But we do honor you today — because your accomplishments have enriched our lives and reveal something about ourselves and about our country. And we can never take for granted the flash of insight that comes from watching a great documentary or reading a great memoir or novel, or seeing an extraordinary piece of architecture. We can’t forget the wonder we feel when we stand before an incredible work of art, or the world of memories we find unlocked with a simple movement or a single note.
“The moments you help create -– moments of understanding or awe or joy or sorrow -– they add texture to our lives. They are not incidental to the American experience; they are central to it — they are essential to it. So we not only congratulate you this afternoon, we thank you for an extraordinary lifetime of achievement.”
Both the Bay Area honorees also got special shout-outs from the president. “I was mentioning to Maxine that when I was first writing my first book and trying to teach myself how to write, “The Woman Warrior” was one of the books I read. … I told Linda Ronstadt I had a little crush on her back in the day.”