The Kennedy Center honorees (clockwise from back left): Led Zeppelin members John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, late-night host David Letterman, actor Dustin Hoffman, ballerina Natalia Makarova and jazz guitarist Buddy Guy.
Actor Robert De Niro, with Grace Hightower.
Alec Baldwin (with wife Hilaria Thomas) honored Letterman with a dig at Jay Leno during a Top 10 tribute.
Morgan Freeman gave Buddy Guy a moving tribute that was followed by musical performances by Tracy Chapman, Jeff Beck and Bonnie Raitt, all of whom ended up jamming together on stage.
The Hoffman clan gathered for a family photo before attending the ceremony.
The queen of soul, Aretha Franklin
Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy.
Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber
Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl (with wife Jordyn) joined the musical tribute to Led Zeppelin.
Jack Black (with Tanya Hayden) honored Led Zeppelin, calling the group the best band of all time, beloved by everyone “from Oliver Stone to Paul Ryan and everyone in between.”
Jimmy Kimmel (with fiancée Molly McNearney) called Letterman a “hero to everyone of us in this room with the possible exception of those who came to see the ballerina.”
Evelyn McGee-Colbert and Stephen Colbert.
Tina Fey said that when she was growing up, she couldn’t figure out if Letterman was “a parody of a talk-show host … or a Midwestern goon that was just a little bit off.”
Dancer, choreorgrapher, actress and director Debbie Allen.
Kid Rock, who attended with his mother, was part of the musical tribute to Led Zeppelin.
Singer Lenny Kravitz also participated in the tribute to Led Zeppelin.
Ray Romano (with wife Anne) drew big laughs from Obama when, discussing how he was inspired by Letterman to become a comedian, he said: “It’s very surreal that I am talking to the president and first lady … I really wish I had voted,” he said.
Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson of the band Heart.
Guitarist Jeff Beck was part of the musical tribute to Buddy Guy.
TV's "Big Brother" host Julie Chen.
President and Michelle Obama welcomed guests to the reception at the White House.
The Kennedy Center honorees, from left: Plant, Page and Jones of Led Zeppelin; Makarova; Letterman; Hoffman, and Guy.