Rita Moreno, Carole King, George Lucas and Cicely Tyson Celebrated At Kennedy Center Honors Awards

Pam WrightLife

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Rita Moreno, singer-songwriter Carole King, Star Wars creator George Lucas and actress Cicely Tyson were celebrated Sunday in Washington for their contributions to the arts as the latest recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors awards.

President Barack Obama lauded the accomplishments of all five honorees, which also included conductor Seiji Ozawa.

"Tonight, we honor five artists who helped tell the story of the first American century through music, theater, and film, and by doing so, helped to shape it," he said to a room filled with other celebrities, including actress Julie Andrews, singer Usher and film director Steven Spielberg.

Interjecting humor into his remarks, Obama noted that Ozawa' career as a pianist was ruined when he broke his fingers playing rugby. As a result, however, he became a renowned conductor.

He praised Lucas for having raised America's children thanks to the Star Wars films.

"Without him, movies would not look as good or sound as good as they do today. Spaceships might still fly around the screen with little strings attached to them," he said to laughter.

The honorees began the celebration on Saturday night at the State Department with a dinner and toasts from their friends and contemporaries.

"I am still in shock," said Tyson about receiving the award. "I consider this tantamount to being honored by the queen."

King, a Grammy award winner known for 70s standards like Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow and Natural Woman, said she was thrilled to be included with other members of the Kennedy Center Honors club.

"The company that I'm in -- not only this evening but the historic company that I'm in, it's extraordinary," she said.

George Lucas joked that it was a departure to be a recipient rather than presenting one as he once did for Steven Spielberg.

"(For) this one I don't have to say anything," he said.

Rita Moreno, who earned an Oscar in 1962 for her role in the film adaptation of West Side Story, noted her Latino heritage.

"It feels terrific," Moreno said. "All my family and friends brought the Puerto Rican flag."

The Kennedy Center Honors will be broadcast on CBS on December 29.

Pam Wright