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President Obama, NEA Honor USO With National Medal of Arts

Friday, February 10, 2012

Updated: 2/13/2012 3:31 p.m. EST 

President Barack Obama and the National Endowment of the Arts presented the USO with the National Medal of Arts on Monday at the White House for its 71 years of providing excellence in entertainment to America’s service members and their families, becoming the only military charity to receive the honor in the medal’s 28-year history.

The medals are bestowed annually in several different artistic disciplines with an organizational category, as well. The other recipients for 2012 include: Will Barnet (painter); Rita Dove (poet/author); Al Pacino (actor/director); Emily Rauh Pulitzer (curator/art collector/philanthropist); Martin Puryear (sculptor); Mel Tillis (singer); Andre Watts (pianist/teacher).

"We are just blessed to have this incredible array of talent and inspiration here today," President Obama said. "Each and every day, you continue to inform who we are as a people."

The National Medal of Arts was presented to USO President Sloan Gibson on behalf of the USO with the following pronouncement: "The 2011 National Medal of Arts to United Service Organizations for lifting the spirits of service members and their families through the arts. The USO continues to support members of our Armed Forces by bringing iconic American artists to share the sights and sounds of home with troops stationed around the world."

"We are humbled by the President’s recognition of our mission to lift the spirits of troops and their families through exceptional entertainment around the world,” Gibson said. “Most importantly, we have never done this alone. From our celebrity friends who have worked with us over the years, our military and corporate partners, and our hard working Entertainment staff, we all share in this honor. We celebrate this award with all of you and with more than 1.4 million service men and women and their families who currently serve our nation."

Established by Congress in 1984 as a way to recognize outstanding contributions to excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts in the U.S., this lifetime achievement award has been presented to more than 250 patrons with hundreds of nominations being submitted by citizens across the country each year.

The USO has delivered on its mission to lift the spirits of troops and their families for over seven decades through entertainment tours, programs and centers that deliver goodness and support to our troops and their families. In 2011, the USO deployed 136 celebrity entertainers on 83 tours to 25 countries and 19 states, entertaining more than 296,000 troops and military families. Nineteen of these tours were to a combat zone in the Middle East. That same year, the USO delivered more than 500 special entertainment events to include concerts, autograph signings, hospital visits and movie screenings. Entertainers who recently toured with the USO include Toby Keith, Carlos Mencia, Gary Sinise, Jon Stewart, Babyface, Train, Jordin Sparks, Kellie Pickler, NFL coaches Gary Kubiak, Jim Mora Jr., Jim Mora Sr., Ken Whisenhunt and other NFL greats, NBA legend Karl Malone, NASCAR drivers Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski and TV personalities Jillian Michaels and Anna Kournikova.

Last year’s National Medal of Arts recipients included actress Meryl Streep, singer and music producer Quincy Jones, singer and songwriter James Taylor, author Harper Lee and pianist Van Clyburn.

The medal ceremony was carried live online on the White House website. See the video below:

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