Berry, 76, joined 19 other recipients of the 2010 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal at the White House to accept the award.
Other 2010 recipients included authors Harper Lee and Joyce Carol Oates, singer James Taylor and actress Meryl Streep.
Berry, a farmer who lives in Henry County, is the author of more than 40 books.
The White House release said Berry is receiving the award for achievements as a poet, novelist, farmer and conservationist, and for his career “exploring our relationship with the land and community.”
“In a nation as big as ours, as diverse as ours,” Obama said, “what the people we honor here today remind us of is that kernel of ourselves that connects to everyone else and allows us to get out of ourselves, to see through somebody else’s eyes, to step in their shoes.”
Berry was a member of the group “Kentucky Rising,” which staged a weekend-long sit-in at the Kentucky State Capitol Feb. 11 through Feb. 14 to protest irresponsible mining practices.
He removed some of his personal papers from UK in December 2009 to protest the naming of the Wildcat Coal Lodge, a new dorm for men’s basketball players.
The awards event took place at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday in the East Room of the White House.
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