Every year, the Kennedy Center recognizes a hand-selected group of honorees to be celebrated for their lifetime achievements and cultural commitments over the years. Last year, the honorees included Earth, Wind & Fire, Sally Field, Linda Ronstadt, Sesame Street, and Michael Tilson Thomas. Everyone from celebrities to politicians came out to support the 42nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors recipients, a ceremony that was also aired on CBS. 

The evening started out the same way any important award ceremony would: with the prominent figures walking the red carpet. There were photographers and reporters conducting interviews with the honorees; some came solo to the event while others brought guests, like Sally Field, who brought Tom Hanks along with her. Even the Sesame Street puppeteers walked the red carpet and stayed in character throughout the entire evening.

During the show, numerous people got on stage to talk about the honorees and share their thoughts on current global events. Don Henley from the Eagles spoke about Linda Ronstadt, Kennedy Center chairman, David Rubenstein, also gave a speech. LL Cool J, who was a former Kennedy Center honoree, was chosen to be the host of the evening. 

One of the best parts of the evening was watching the performances of all the musical guests. Carrie Underwood performed “Blue Bayou”, the Sesame Street puppets sang along with Thomas Rhett, and Audra McDonald performed “Somewhere” by Leonard Bernstein. Yet, one of the best tributes was to the remaining members of Earth, Wind, & Fire, Philip Bailey, Verdine White, and Ralph Johnson. Famous performers like John Legend, Cynthia Erivo, Ne-Yo, and the Jonas Brothers all got on stage together to perform “September”, which of course had everyone in the audience dancing and singing along. 

The nominees are chosen every year by the Center’s board. You can read more about last year’s nominees here, but below is a brief touch on why the Kennedy Center chose to celebrate these individuals:

The members of Earth, Wind, & Fire not only defined the music of their generation, but those following it. It’s clear that their influence will be seen for decades to come. 

Sally Field is an actress who has given the world incredible and unforgettable characters for the past five decades, which many of us will remember for the rest of our lives. 

Linda Ronstadt has been called the defining voice of her generation. Her talents not only span continents, but languages and genres as well.

Since its inception, Sesame Street has been a revolutionary television show that educates kids — and even adults — about national and global events. 

Michael Tilson Thomas is renowned for his scores, but his influence has transformed more than just his genre; he has shaped American music in the 21st century entirely. 

Watching these annual shows and getting to see new nominees celebrated for their achievements is exciting. I’ve been lucky to be involved with the Kennedy Center, and it’s incredible to watch them recognize notable figures across a variety of industries.