In a crowd that included President Joe Biden, other prominent Washington leaders and some of the world's most famous entertainers, it was a less-familiar face whose presence stole the show Sunday at this year's Kennedy Center Honors.

Among those in attendance for the annual Kennedy Center event was Paul Pelosi, alongside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It was his first public appearance since he was assaulted in October in the home that the Pelosis share in San Francisco.

Paul Pelosi had been hospitalized after sustaining head injuries during the attack. Nancy Pelosi, who is stepping down as the leading Democrat in the House, said last week that her husband was "coming along" in his recovery, but added: "Head injuries are, they have an impact beyond surgery. It's a big thing."

The president customarily hosts the Kennedy Center honorees at the White House before the official ceremony at the Kennedy Center.

Speaking at the White House, Biden said Sunday's events gave him the opportunity to build on the "We the People" themes from last week's National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony and the State Dinner with President Emmanuel Macron of France.

This year's class of honorees, the 45th annual, consisted of actor-filmmaker George Clooney, singers Amy Grant (known for contemporary Christian music) and Gladys Knight (known for R&B music) and composer Tania León, as well as the four members of the Irish rock band U2.

“Thank you for showing us the power of the arts and ‘We the People,’” Biden said.

Among other things, Biden praised Clooney for his activism and charity work — after jokingly referring him to as "Amal Clooney's husband" — and saluted the other four honorees for their contributions to the world's music, quoting from the lyrics of Knight's "Midnight Train to Georgia" and U2's "One."

"As the song goes, 'We're one, but we're not the same, We get to carry each other,'" Biden said in quoting U2.

U2 was only the fifth band to be so honored, joining The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, and Earth, Wind & Fire. Amid the formal garb of the honorees, The Edge — the band's guitarist who was born David Howell Evans — stood out by wearing his customary knit cap.

Among those who were also seen in attendance for part or all of the day's festivities were Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. and Anthony Fauci, the soon-to-be-retired Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

One of the most prestigious award ceremonies in the entertainment industry, the Kennedy Center Honors began in 1978 with an initial class of opera-spiritual singer Marian Anderson, actor-dancer Fred Astaire, choreographer George Balanchine, composer Richard Rodgers and pianist Arthur Rubinstein. The first class of Biden's presidency consisted of opera singer Justino Díaz, music entrepreneur Berry Gordy, TV producer Lorne Michaels, actress-singer Bette Midler and singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell.

An edited version of the evening portion of the Kennedy Center Honors is scheduled to air in late December on CBS and the Paramount + streaming service.

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