Neil Diamond (L), actress Meryl Streep (2nd L), musician Yo-Yo Ma (3rd L), first lady Michelle Obama (C) and others clap while U.S. President Barack Obama (3rd R) listens during a live taping of the annual Kennedy Center Honors on December 4, 2011in Washington, DC. (Photo/Getty Images)

Kennedy Center Honors revises selection process criteria

After seven months of deliberation, Kennedy Center board trustees announced Thursday that the selection process for one of the nation’s highest artistic accolades – the Kennedy Center Honors – has been revised with the implementation of a special selection committee and a plan to incorporate recommendations from the public.

The new selection process will include recommendations and review from a Special Honors Advisory Committee that will include Kennedy Center board members, artist committee members and former honorees Chita Rivera and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Members of the Special Honors Advisory Committee will serve a term between three and five years long and will create a list of 10-20 nominees for awards consideration. These nominees — which will include honoree recommendations submitted by the general public through a new  website — will then be divvied up into slates that “will provide balance and diversity across the various performing arts disciplines,” announced a press release regarding the revised selection process.

Following the announcement of the 2012 honorees last September – who included entertainment personalities including actor Dustin Hoffman, the surviving members of rock band Led Zeppelin and television host David Letterman – Latino groups including the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) and the National Hispanic Foundation of the Arts (NHFA) began lobbying for revised selection process that would avoid any inadvertent discrimination against Latinos.

The Kennedy Center Honors recognizes lifetime achievement to entertainers who have contributed to American culture through their art. However, since the first awards were bestowed in 1978, only two of the more than 180 artists honored since have been Hispanic.  Placido Domingo (2000) and Chita Rivera (2002) have been recipients of the Honors and to date, the only Latinos to have received such recognition.

“This revision will broaden input into selecting the Honorees while continuing to ensure the Honors remains the preeminent award for cultural achievement in the United States,” said Kennedy Center Chairman David Rubenstein.

Kennedy Center trustee and standing board oversight committee member Giselle Fernandez said that the organization should be praised for its swift revision of its selection process, stating “I applaud the Kennedy Center board for moving so thoughtfully and swiftly with this review … [I] hope this review becomes a model for other organizations across the country.”

The revised selection process will be effective immediately and will be implemented for use in selecting the 2013 Kennedy Honors recipients.

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