Tony Kushner was among those receiving the 2012 National Medal of Arts and Humanities on Wednesday from President Barack Obama in an East Room ceremony.

“The work that we honor today, the lifetime achievement of these artists and these scholars, reminds us that the human imagination is still the most powerful tool that we have as a people,” Obama told those attending the ceremony. “That's why we celebrate their creativity and the fundamental optimism, the notion that if they work that hard somebody will actually pay attention. That's why we have to remain committed to the dreamers and the creators and innovators who fuel that progress and help us light the way ahead, because our children, our grandchildren deserve to grow up in a country where their dreams know no bounds and their ambitions extend as far as their talents and hard work can take them. And it's important that they have examples – people who’ve carved out a path for them.”

The 56-year-old Kushner co-authored the screenplay for the 2005 film Munich and wrote last year's Lincoln. But he is best known for his 1993 play Angels In America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes.

Obama hugged Kushner as he arrived to receive his medal.

Others honored included musician Herb Albert and filmmaker George Lucas.