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Standing ovation for Obama at his last Kennedy Center Honors

Associated Press logo Associated Press 12/5/2016 By BEN NUCKOLS, Associated Press
Teresa Heinz Kerry, front row, from left, Kennedy Center Honorees Al Pacino, Mavis Staples, Martha Argerich, James Taylor, and Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter; rear row, from left, Secretary of State John Kerry, Kennedy Center Honorees Joe Walsh, Don Henley, and Timothy Schmit, and David Rubinstein are photographed following the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf) © The Associated Press Teresa Heinz Kerry, front row, from left, Kennedy Center Honorees Al Pacino, Mavis Staples, Martha Argerich, James Taylor, and Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter; rear row, from left, Secretary of State John Kerry, Kennedy Center Honorees Joe Walsh, Don Henley, and Timothy Schmit, and David Rubinstein are photographed following the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The longest, loudest standing ovation of the Kennedy Center Honors gala wasn't reserved for Al Pacino, Mavis Staples or the Eagles. Instead, it went to the man sitting to their left, attending his eighth and most likely his last honors presentation: President Barack Obama.

Kennedy Center Honoree Al Pacino shakes hands with U.S. Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Kelley Johnson following the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf) © The Associated Press Kennedy Center Honoree Al Pacino shakes hands with U.S. Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Kelley Johnson following the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

While politics were absent from the tributes to the performers who were recognized for influencing American culture Sunday night, the arts community's affection for Obama — and its nervousness about President-elect Donald Trump — was palpable in the Kennedy Center Opera House.

Kennedy Center Honorees Al Pacino kisses fellow honoree Mavis Staples, center, with honoree Martha Argerich, right, following the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf) © The Associated Press Kennedy Center Honorees Al Pacino kisses fellow honoree Mavis Staples, center, with honoree Martha Argerich, right, following the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
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The president and first lady Michelle Obama were introduced last, after Pacino and his fellow honorees: gospel singer Staples; pianist Martha Argerich; singer-songwriter James Taylor; and Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit and Joe Walsh, the surviving members of the Eagles.

Secretary of State John Kerry, top left, meets with Eagles members Tim Schmit, right, Don Henley, second right, and Joe Walsh, second left, all 2016 Kennedy Center Honorees following the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Washington. Also photographed are honorees, front row from left, Al Pacino, Mavis Staples and Martha Argerich. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf) © The Associated Press Secretary of State John Kerry, top left, meets with Eagles members Tim Schmit, right, Don Henley, second right, and Joe Walsh, second left, all 2016 Kennedy Center Honorees following the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Washington. Also photographed are honorees, front row from left, Al Pacino, Mavis Staples and Martha Argerich. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

After a sustained ovation, host Stephen Colbert greeted the crowd of Washington insiders as "endangered swamp-dwellers," referencing Trump's "drain the swamp" campaign pledge. He joked that Obama would need to receive the honor to attend again and that "unlike the Nobel Peace Prize, they don't just give these away."

Kennedy Center Honoree Al Pacino fixes his hair following the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf) © The Associated Press Kennedy Center Honoree Al Pacino fixes his hair following the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

The Kennedy Center Honors are in their 39th year, a period that has included six presidents — three Republicans, three Democrats — and all have taken time to welcome the recipients. But the 2016 election was noteworthy for the way A-list performers lined up behind Obama and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, while Trump had relatively few celebrity endorsements.

Kennedy Center Honoree Timothy Schmit, center, of the Eagles arrives with his family, from left, Ben Schmit, Jeddrah Leiterding, Owen Schmit, and Jean Schmit at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf) © The Associated Press Kennedy Center Honoree Timothy Schmit, center, of the Eagles arrives with his family, from left, Ben Schmit, Jeddrah Leiterding, Owen Schmit, and Jean Schmit at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Although the president has no say in who receives the awards, Colbert joked that next year's honorees would include Scott Baio, Gary Busey and Meat Loaf.

Kennedy Center Honoree Mavis Staples, center, meets with fellow honorees Don Henley, right, and Martha Argerich following the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf) © The Associated Press Kennedy Center Honoree Mavis Staples, center, meets with fellow honorees Don Henley, right, and Martha Argerich following the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

"For the past eight years, the White House has given us a leader who's passionate, intelligent and dignified," Colbert said, and the crowd rose for another prolonged ovation, prompting Obama to stand and wave.

Kennedy Center Honorees, from left, Al Pacino, Mavis Staples and Martha Argerich wait for the group portrait following the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf) © The Associated Press Kennedy Center Honorees, from left, Al Pacino, Mavis Staples and Martha Argerich wait for the group portrait following the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

"Sir, I don't even know why you stood up. I was talking about Michelle," Colbert said.

Actor Kevin Spacey arrives at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf) © The Associated Press Actor Kevin Spacey arrives at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Earlier, at the White House, Obama welcomed the honorees at a reception and said participating in the gala was "one of the perks of the job."

Chris O'Donnell and wife Caroline Fentress arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf) © The Associated Press Chris O'Donnell and wife Caroline Fentress arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

"The arts have always been part of life at the White House because the arts are always central to American life," Obama said. "That's why over the past eight years Michelle and I have invited some of the best writers, musicians, actors and dancers to share their gifts with the American people and to help tell the story of who we are."

Kennedy Center Honoree James Taylor and his wife, Caroline Kim Taylor arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf) © The Associated Press Kennedy Center Honoree James Taylor and his wife, Caroline Kim Taylor arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Kennedy Center chairman David Rubenstein also thanked the Obamas, noting that the president isn't required to attend the honors or host a reception. He offered them a "golden ticket" good for free admission to any event at the center.

Kennedy Center Honoree Martha Argerich, second from right, arrives with Anne Catherine Dutoit, left, Lyda Chen, Stephanie Argerich, right, at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf) © The Associated Press Kennedy Center Honoree Martha Argerich, second from right, arrives with Anne Catherine Dutoit, left, Lyda Chen, Stephanie Argerich, right, at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

"Parking is extra," Rubenstein said.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and her husband, Paul Pelosi arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf) © The Associated Press Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and her husband, Paul Pelosi arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Another standing ovation went to Bill Clinton, who made a surprise appearance on stage to talk about how Taylor's music resonated with him and the American public in times that tested the nation's resolve.

Sisters Debbie Allen, left, and Phylicia Rashad arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf) © The Associated Press Sisters Debbie Allen, left, and Phylicia Rashad arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

"Our nation was reeling from the pain of Vietnam," Clinton said. "James was there to satisfy our hunger for both intimacy and authenticity."

Kennedy Center Honoree James Taylor, center, his wife Caroline Kim Taylor and his sister, Kate Taylor, arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf) © The Associated Press Kennedy Center Honoree James Taylor, center, his wife Caroline Kim Taylor and his sister, Kate Taylor, arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Politics aside, the honors proceeded as usual, with musicians and actors taking the stage to pay tribute to the honorees, who stood on a balcony, waving and applauding as they wore the event's signature rainbow-colored garlands. The ceremony will be broadcast Dec. 27 on CBS.

Kennedy Center Honoree James Taylor and his wife, Caroline Kim Taylor arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf) © The Associated Press Kennedy Center Honoree James Taylor and his wife, Caroline Kim Taylor arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

The tribute to Pacino included remarks by Sean Penn and recitations of Shakespeare by Laurence Fishburne and Lily Rabe. Chris O'Donnell and Gabrielle Anwar re-enacted the tango that Pacino danced with Anwar in "Scent of a Woman," the 1992 movie that won Pacino his long-overdue Oscar.

Tony Award-winning actress Cynthia Erivo arrives at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf) © The Associated Press Tony Award-winning actress Cynthia Erivo arrives at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors gala dinner on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Kevin Spacey gave a virtuoso tutorial on how to impersonate the actor whose passionate delivery has helped create some of the most memorable lines in American cinema. The keys are to look surprised and exhale loudly, Spacey said.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, put their hand over their heart as the national anthem is sang during the Kennedy Center Honors Gala at the Kennedy Center in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) © The Associated Press President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, put their hand over their heart as the national anthem is sang during the Kennedy Center Honors Gala at the Kennedy Center in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

"Al seems to have a lot of air," he said.

Recipients of the 2016 Kennedy Center Honor award, the members of the Eagles band, from left, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and Timothy Schmit, applaud during the Kennedy Center Honors Gala at the Kennedy Center in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) © The Associated Press Recipients of the 2016 Kennedy Center Honor award, the members of the Eagles band, from left, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and Timothy Schmit, applaud during the Kennedy Center Honors Gala at the Kennedy Center in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow and Darius Rucker performed medleys of Taylor's music. Yitzhak Perlman played violin and Yuja Wang played piano to honor the Argentine-born Argerich.

The recipients of the 2016 Kennedy Center Honors, actor Al Pacino and musician James Taylor, applaud gospel and blues singer Mavis Staples as she is recognized, during a reception in their honor in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, hosted by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) © The Associated Press The recipients of the 2016 Kennedy Center Honors, actor Al Pacino and musician James Taylor, applaud gospel and blues singer Mavis Staples as she is recognized, during a reception in their honor in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, hosted by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Staples' songs were performed by Elle King, Bonnie Raitt and Andra Day, and actor Don Cheadle spoke about the civil rights legacy of Staples and her family, who were close to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and performed at John F. Kennedy's inauguration.

The recipients of the 2016 Kennedy Center Honors, members of the rock band the Eagles, from left, Don Henley, Timothy Schmit, and Joe Walsh are recognized during a reception in their honor in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, hosted by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) © The Associated Press The recipients of the 2016 Kennedy Center Honors, members of the rock band the Eagles, from left, Don Henley, Timothy Schmit, and Joe Walsh are recognized during a reception in their honor in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, hosted by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

"She's still fighting. She's still singing freedom songs," Cheadle said.

Recipients of the 2016 Kennedy Center Honors actor Al Pacino, left, acknowledges applause by gospel and blues singer Mavis Staples, and the invited guests as he is recognized during a reception in their honor in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, hosted by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) © The Associated Press Recipients of the 2016 Kennedy Center Honors actor Al Pacino, left, acknowledges applause by gospel and blues singer Mavis Staples, and the invited guests as he is recognized during a reception in their honor in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, hosted by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The Eagles were originally selected to be honored last year, but the band opted to delay participation because of founding member Glenn Frey's poor health. Frey died in January at age 67, making the event a bittersweet one for the surviving Eagles, who were joined by Frey's widow, Cindy Frey. Henley has said the band will never perform again. Bob Seger, Vince Gill, Kings of Leon and Colombian rocker Juanes performed the Eagles' music Sunday.

Recipient of the 2016 Kennedy Center Honors musician James Taylor, left, speaks to Don Henley, a member of the rock band the Eagles, as he is recognized during a reception in their honor in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, hosted by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) © The Associated Press Recipient of the 2016 Kennedy Center Honors musician James Taylor, left, speaks to Don Henley, a member of the rock band the Eagles, as he is recognized during a reception in their honor in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, hosted by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

"I want to dedicate this evening to our brother Glenn," Henley said as the band accepted its honors Saturday night at the State Department. "He was so much a part of our success. He was the driving force in this band. He believed in the American dream."

Recipients of the 2016 Kennedy Center Honors musician James Taylor, left, with fellow recipient, Don Henley, a member of the rock band the Eagles, gestures as he is recognized during a reception in their honor in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, hosted by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) © The Associated Press Recipients of the 2016 Kennedy Center Honors musician James Taylor, left, with fellow recipient, Don Henley, a member of the rock band the Eagles, gestures as he is recognized during a reception in their honor in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, hosted by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The band's longtime manager, Irving Azoff, sobbed as he raised a glass to Frey.

The recipients of the 2016 Kennedy Center Honors, Argentine pianist Martha Argerich, left, with actor Al Pacino, makes a gesture as she is recognized during a reception in their honor in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, hosted by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) © The Associated Press The recipients of the 2016 Kennedy Center Honors, Argentine pianist Martha Argerich, left, with actor Al Pacino, makes a gesture as she is recognized during a reception in their honor in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, hosted by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

"For our Eagles family," he said, "2016 couldn't have had a harder beginning or a more appropriate ending."

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Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

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This story has been corrected to give the proper spelling of the last name of musician Timothy B. Schmit.

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