Bidens reinstate tradition of first family attending the Kennedy Center Honors
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Bidens reinstate tradition of first family attending the Kennedy Center Honors

President Joe Biden and Jill Biden will attend the 44th annual Kennedy Center Honors Sunday night in Washington, DC, reinstating a longstanding tradition that was interrupted by Donald Trump’s presidency.

The event celebrates the careers of prominent members of the performing arts. The first lady’s spokesman Michael LaRosa confirmed the attendance of the President and first lady, as well as a private reception for honorees at the White House prior to the performance, which the Bidens will host. This year’s recipients include Bette Midler, Joni Mitchell, Justino Díaz, Berry Gordy and Lorne Michaels.

The President and first lady sit with the awardees in the box tier, a balcony section of the Kennedy Center’s Opera House theater, to watch the performance. Biden attended the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors as vice president.

Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Douglas Emhoff are also expected to attend, according to a release from the Kennedy Center. The Honors will be televised on CBS on December 22.

In 2017, Trump and first lady Melania Trump declined to attend the Kennedy Center Honors after two of the honorees that year, television writer and producer Norman Lear and dancer Carmen de Lavallade, said they would attend the Honors, but skip the Trump-hosted reception at the White House, citing their political beliefs.

At the time, the White House said Trump’s decision would allow the artists “to celebrate without any political distraction.”

It was just the fourth time in the show’s then-40-year history that a president had missed the performance, and the first time bowing out was instigated by personal politics. In 1979, Jimmy Carter did not attend due to the Iran hostage crisis; George H.W. Bush skipped in 1989 due to a foreign summit. Bill Clinton was also out of the country for the 1994 Honors, and Barack Obama arrived to them late in 2015 after giving a nationally televised speech. On all of those occasions, the first lady attended solo.

The Trumps again skipped the 2018 Honors; one of the honorees that year was Cher, a vocal critic of the then-President. They also did not attend in 2019.

In 2020, the Kennedy Center first postponed the event, opting instead for a scaled-down version in May 2021, due to the pandemic. While the Bidens did not attend in-person, they did host a reception for the award recipients at the White House. President Biden also taped remarks about the importance of the arts, which was played during the broadcast.

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