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Amartya Sen receives Humanities Award from Obama

Last updated on: February 14, 2012 10:56 IST

Amartya Sen, economist and a Nobel Prize winner in economics, has been felicitated with the National Medals of Arts and Humanities Award by United States President Barack Obama at a glittering White House function in Washington.

"We even have an economist, which we don't always get on stage," Obama said, referring to 78-year-old Sen, before he presented the 2011 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities.

"Sen is being awarded the 2011 National Humanities Medal for his insights into the causes of poverty, famine, and injustice. By applying philosophical thinking to questions of policy, he has changed how standards of living are measured and increased our understanding of how to fight hunger," said the citation, read by a military aid of the US President.

A few minutes later, Sen was on the stage to receive the medal from Obama. The two Nobel Laureats were seen chatting on some issues.

Sen also attended the White House reception hosted by President Obama on this occasion. The First Lady, Michelle Obama, also attended the awards ceremony.

The 2011 National Medal of Arts were also awarded to Will Barnet, Rita Dove, Al Pacino, Emily Rauh Pulitzer, Martin Puryear, Mel Tillis, United Service Organisation and Andre Watts.

And the 2011 National Humanities Medal were given to Kwame Anthony Appiah, John Ashbery, Robert Darnton, Andrew Delbanco, National History Day, Charles Rosen sand Teofilo Ruiz, besides Sen.

"Each of you has traveled a unique path to get here. And your fields represent the full spectrum of the arts and humanities. With us are actors and poets, authors, singers, philosophers, sculptors, curators, musicians, and historians. We even have an economist, which we don't always get on stage," Obama said.

"But what connects every one of you is that you dwell in possibilities. You create new possibilities for all of us," said the US President in his speech at the East Room of the White House.

"And that's a special trait. And it assigns you a special task. Because in moments of calm, as in moments of crisis; in times of triumph, as in times of tragedy: you help guide our growth as a people," he said.

"The true power of the arts and the humanities is that you speak to everyone. There is not one of us here who hasn't had their beliefs challenged by a writer's eloquence; or their knowledge deepened by a historian's insights; or their sagging spirits lifted by a singer's voice. Those are some of the most endearing and memorable moments in our lives," he said.

"We are just blessed to have this incredible array of talent and inspiration with us here today. We are so glad we had the opportunity to make this small gesture of appreciation and thanks to all that you have contributed to us," Obama said.

"Each and every day you continue to inform who we are as a people, and we could not be prouder of everything that you've done, and we know you've got a lot more to do, so keep at it," he said.

VIDEO: Watch Amartya Sen receive the award from US President Barack Obama at 21:24 (external link)

Lalit K Jha In Washington
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