Obama honors Oprah, McCartney and other cultural icons

President Obama is the first African-American president of the United States, the leader of the free world in a time of upheaval -- yet he may not be the biggest cultural icon to hail from Chicago.

That title may belong to Oprah Winfrey, as Obama himself seemed to acknowledge at a reception Sunday for this year's Kennedy Center honorees.

"She has shown millions of people around the world -- people she probably will never meet -- what it means to believe in 'the dream of your own life,'" he told a crowd in the East Room at the White House.

It's one of the cool things about being president -- you get to comment on American culture.
This year's list for the Kennedy Center Honors covered the usual broad range, including rock 'n' roll legend Paul McCartney, country music legend Merle Haggard, Broadway composer Jerry Herman and dance artist Bill T. Jones.
Obama's tribute to McCartney included a joke about the split lip the president recently suffered playing basketball:

This summer, Paul McCartney was here to accept the Gershwin Prize for popular song. It was a thrill of a lifetime to hear him sing Michelle to Michelle. Although apparently Paul joked afterwards that he was worried he might become the "first guy ever to get punched out by the president." (Laughter.)

I will say he was a little emotive during the song. (Laughter and applause.) I can't afford another one. (Laughter.) You have nothing to worry about. I just recovered from my last tussle on the basketball court. (Laughter.)

And so tonight I am pleased once again to honor a man widely considered to be among the greatest songwriters in history. ...

(The Beatles) went on to change the way the world thought about music. Their songs were the soundtrack for an era of immense creativity and change. And when Paul continued his musical journey alone after the Beatles broke up, he would become one of the few performers inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice -- as a Beatle and as a solo artist. (Applause.)

Now, Paul admits that the only possible explanation is supernatural. He says, "The most important ingredient to making a song work is magic. You've got a melody, you've got words, but on the most successful songs, there's a sort of magic glow that just makes the songs sort of roll out."