Washington (CNN) -- Musician James Taylor, historian Bernard Bailyn, novelist Joyce Carol Oates, actress Meryl Streep and pianist Van Cliburn were among a small group of honorees recognized at the White House Wednesday for their contributions to America's arts and humanities.
The men and women were selected as the 2010 recipients of the National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal.
The arts medal, established in 1984, is meant to honor "outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts," according to the National Endowment for the Arts.
The humanities medal, created in 1997, "honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation's understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizens' engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans' access to important resources in the humanities," according to the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The arts and humanities are what "make the good times worthwhile," Obama said. "Our strength as a people runs deeper than our military might" or economic prowess. "It's also about our values and ideas."
Aside from Cliburn, Streep and Taylor, the group receiving the arts medal included: playwright and critic Robert Brustein; abstract artist Mark di Suvero; poet Donald Hall; the organizers of Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, America's longest-running international dance festival; Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Harper Lee; jazz musician Sonny Rollins, and musician Quincy Jones.
In addition to Bailyn and Oates, the group receiving the humanities medal included Library of America founder Daniel Aaron; cultural historian Jacques Barzun; poet and novelist Wendell Berry; Spanish and Latin American literary critic Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria; Stanley Nider Katz, the head of the American Council of Learned Societies; biographer and literary critic Arnold Rampersad; novelist Philip Roth, and historian Gordon Wood.