Biden praises U2 for ‘all you have done and the way you lift people up’

Actor George Clooney and singer Gladys Knight also attend reception at White House

U2 were singled out for special praise by US president Joe Biden at a celebration in the White House on Sunday for their contributions to the arts.

“From this Irish American president in a White House designed by Irish hands, thank you for all you have done and the way you lift people up,” Mr Biden told members of U2 in Washington.

The band are among honourees of the Kennedy Center in Washington.

Along with other nominees including actor George Clooney, singer-songwriter Amy Grant, singer Gladys Knight and composer Tania León, the band attended a reception at the White House on Sunday afternoon ahead of the ceremony at the Kennedy Center.

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The event, now in its 45th year, recognises stars from music, stage and screen for their contributions to American culture.

At a reception for the five honorees at the White House beforehand, President Biden addressed each personally, praising their individual talents and said they embodied the spirit of the country.

“To see each other, to see ourselves in one another, to unite in common cause - tonight we celebrate a truly exceptional . . . group of artists,” Mr Biden said.

Mr Biden said U2′s music was a bridge between Ireland and America, between two friends linked in memory and imagination, joined by our history.

He said in their songs from Sunday Bloody Sunday to Pride to One, U2 had sung about the unspeakable cost of hate, anger and division and denial of freedom that humanity afflicted on one another as nations and as people.

“At a moment we would do well to remember when there is too much hate, too much division and too much anger in America and, quite frankly, around the world, as [U2′s] song goes: “We are one, we are not the same, we get to carry each other.”

The room was packed with celebrities, the White House’s second star-studded event in recent days. Actors Julia Roberts and Matt Damon were seated next to each other, in front of journalist Katie Couric. In the front row former Washington, DC police officer Michael Fanone, who was beaten defending the US Capitol on January 6th 2021, was seated next to singer Eddie Vedder.

Clooney, who played a doctor on the popular NBC television show ER before launching a movie career that earned him two Academy Awards, has also drawn praise for his humanitarian work.

Grant rose to prominence as a contemporary Christian music singer who later crossed over to pop stardom, amassing six Grammy Awards.

Knight, who has won seven Grammy Awards, is famous for hit songs including I Heard It Through the Grapevine and Midnight Train to Georgia as the lead singer of The Pips, which became Gladys Knight & The Pips in 1962.

Cuban-born León is a conductor as well as a composer, whose orchestral piece Stride won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Music.

U2 have won 22 Grammy Awards and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. - (Additional reporting, Reuters)

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent