The Smithsonian magazine’s 2018 American Ingenuity Awards held at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. Wednesday night were filled with nothing but exciting moments, hopeful energy and most of all surprises. The biggest one:Stevie Wonder.
The annual awards show honors individuals across a variety of categories who are making dramatic changes in American culture. Honorees are recognized in nine different fields: performing arts, technology, life science, social progress, visual arts, youth, education, physical science and history.
The theme for the evening was hopefulness says David Skorton, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institute. He hoped that the night would bring individuals from all different backgrounds like the sciences, literature and performing arts to convene in one setting and have conversations to bridge gaps during the nation’s fragmented times.
Check out the five key highlights from the awards below.
Surprise! It’s Stevie Wonder
This year’s awards show celebrated “Dirty Computer” artist Janelle Monáe for her transformative work in performing arts, and Wonder presented the award to her. Up until the moment the legendary musician came on stage, no one had any idea he would be there.
“Her recent project, ‘Dirty Computer,’ is an album that is filled with love, tolerance and respect, and I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to hear the way that she takes through her music sounds that she grew up with and weaves them into something fresh, original and exciting,” said Wonder about Monáe. “I really think this woman is one of the most revolutionary artists working music today.”
Cheech Marin remembers George H.W. Bush
Stand-up comedian, Cheech Marin was presenting the Ingenuity Award in history to John Leguizamo when he took a moment to remember a special evening he had with the late President George H.W. Bush.
Marin said that he was invited by a friend to have dinner with the Bush family, which he thought was going to be some big state sponsored event, but turned out to be an intimate dinner with Bush and his wife, Barbara.
“He was the most remarkable, wonderful host throughout the evening, and Mrs. Bush as well, and I was flabbergasted at what a compassionate, and generous, and loving man he was just in the space of that one evening,” said Marin.
John Leguizamo talks representation
Leguizamo was recognized for his one-man show, “Latin History for Morons” which focuses on Latin history in the U.S.
“If you don’t see yourself represented outside of yourself, you feel invisible,” said Leguizamo about the erasure of Latin history in school textbooks.
The actor spoke about how his interest in Latin history sparked when he realized his son was being bullied and he wanted to empower him with the knowledge to defend himself. Leguizamo added that when he tried to teach his kid about his history, he realized he was coming up with blanks too because he never learned about it in school either.
The funnyman began sharing interesting facts about vital Latin history and said that it’s important for kids to see themselves represented in all aspects of life because if they don’t, what they’re really being told is that they don’t matter.
Parkland shooting survivors get standing ovation
The Parkland survivors and founders of March For Our Lives took the stage to receive the award in the youth category for their work to end gun violence. While other recipients received standing ovations, this one was different. The entire crowd was on its feet, and the applause was overwhelming.
John Krasinski gets jealous of Stevie Wonder
Actors Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds of “A Quiet Place” graced the stage to present John Krasinski with the award for visual arts. As cute as they were, Krasinski was a little upset that his plan to have the “coolest presenter” was foiled.
After expressing how wonderful it was to work with Jupe and Simmonds and hailed them for being “the greatest humans,” Krasinski still had one issue.
“The problem is that I thought I had asked the coolest presenters to present me the award and then… Stevie Wonder sang ‘Isn’t She Lovely.’ Don’t worry, kids, I’m pretty sure that’s cheating,” the director said.
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