2020 Kennedy Center Honoree
The Kennedy Center Honors are given annually to select performing artists for their lifetime of contributions to American culture. This year The Kennedy Center chose Dick, calling him a “national treasure,” a beloved inspiration to countless performers. Fellow 2020 recipients include choreographer Debbie Allen, violin virtuoso Midori, folk music icon Joan Baez, and country music star Garth Brooks.
Usually airing in late December with tributes and performances in the main theater,
the ceremony was postponed until May of 2021 due to the ongoing COVID-
When Dick received the initial call, though instructed explicitly not to tell anyone, he immediately contacted his family with the good news, explaining, “I couldn’t hold that in.” Dick joked that the Kennedy Center “just made it”; at 95, he becomes one of the oldest recipients. Despite some reservations about air travel during the pandemic, Dick and Arlene flew to Washington, D.C. in late May.
As Dick, cane in hand, mounted the dais for the presentation of the award, he seemed
to lose his balance, prompting fellow honoree Garth Brooks to reach out reflexively
to catch him. Dick, in true showman mode, reached the stage and did a rubber-
Dick, in his smile and the twinkle in his eyes, revealed near giddiness and awe from being in attendance for the many festivities. “I just turned 95, so I’m happy to be anywhere.” He also added, “If I had known I was going to live this long, I would’ve taken better care of myself.”
“The capper of my life,” Dick called it, equating this award to a knighthood. “How I got here, I don’t know, and I’m not going to ask.” In interviews, he seemed unabashedly impressed with the other four recipients, each of them deserving, the best in their respective fields in his estimation, while modestly downplaying his own accomplishments.
Kennedy Center Chairman, David Rubenstein, however, outlined Dick’s cultural contributions. “With a charm that has made him one of the most cherished performers in show business history, Dick Van Dyke has brought us beloved film, stage, and TV characters, adored by generations of fans, for more than seven decades.” One of those fans turned out to be President Joe Biden who got on one knee to greet Dick when the honorees visited the White House.
Dick’s tribute segment included performances of “Put on a Happy Face,” “Chitty Chitty
Bang Bang,” and “Step in Time,” numerous movie and TV clips, and participation by
Dick joining the roster of previous recipients and collaborators in this particular year of 2020 certainly seems appropriate. Danny Thomas, with 20/20/20/20 vision, would have undoubtedly approved. The Kennedy Center described Dick as “a living legend.” To that we add a big Thumbs Up!