Moreno was among a host of recipients who were celebrated by the President and First Lady during the ceremony held in the East Room of the White House. Also honored with the National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medals were Bob Dylan, Clint Eastwood, Milton Glaser, Maya Lin, Jessye Norman, The Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Joseph P. Riley, Jr., The School of American Ballet, Frank Stella, Michael Tilson Thomas, John Williams, Robert A. Caro, Annette Gordon-Reed, David Levering Lewis, William H. McNeill, Philippe de Montebello, Albert H. Small, Theodore C. Sorensen and Elie Wiesel.
According to the White House, Moreno was honored "for her remarkable achievements on stage and screen. Her performances have served as touchstones to millions of Americans for whom she reflects their own passions, troubles, and joys."
Rita Moreno earned her Academy and Golden Globe Awards for her portrayal of Anita in the film version of West Side Story. She received a Grammy Award in 1972 for her performance on "The Electric Company" album for children, based on the long-running television show of the same name. Her Emmy Awards acknowledged her work in "The Muppet Show" and "The Rockford Files." In 1975 Moreno won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her work in The Ritz. Her recent stage credits include the London production of Sunset Boulevard and Terrence McNally's Master Class for Berkeley Rep.