WASHINGTON - Barbra Streisand is visiting the White House but says she'll play nice.
Streisand, a vocal critic of President George W. Bush, was a guest Sunday at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue during one of Washington's few A-list events.
"Art," she said, "transcends politics this weekend."
The singer and actress this year is a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors, along with Morgan Freeman, country singer George Jones, dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp and musicians Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey of The Who.
The honors recognize individuals who have had an impact on American culture through the performing arts, part of the living memorial to President John F. Kennedy.
"I'm really excited and I'm touched" about being selected as an honoree, Townshend said.
Musician B.B. King wore his Kennedy Center honoree medal from 1995 to the event.
"I'm here because of one of my idols called Morgan Freeman," he said.
Jones said there were no strained moments between Streisand and Bush during the reception.
"Everything went so smooth," he said.
After the reception, the group traveled with the president and first lady Laura Bush to the performing arts center for a gala in their honor.
The gala will include the young singer-songwriter Ne-Yo singing Streisand's 1965 hit "Lover, Come Back to Me."
"Barbra Streisand is the epitome of emotion in music. You feel every word, that's something that artists in my day and age don't really pay attention to," he said.
Musician Rob Thomas said he would sing The Who's song "Baba O'Riley" during the tribute for Townshend and Daltrey.
"These are people who have influenced everyone," he said. "It's not just their music, it's their attitude."
The Kennedy Center Honors come just a month after the presidential election. Streisand, 66, was one of the most outspoken honorees on politics during the campaign season, saying the past two elections had been "stolen." On the day after the Obama's win, she was riding high.
"November 5th ... what a day ... a new day ... finally (Martin Luther King's) words ring true," Streisand, a longtime Democrat, wrote on her Web site. "I am so proud of our country."
At a State Department dinner for the honorees Saturday night, Streisand said, "It's just great to be honored by one's own country."
Jones, who earned the nickname "No Show Jones" for performances he missed during his wild days, promised to show up this time. As he entered the reception, the 77-year-old said, "I'm in a daze" about being an honoree.
Performers from New York, Nashville and Hollywood will salute the honorees with surprise tribute performances Sunday evening. The show will air Dec. 30 on CBS.
Tickets to the gala sell for as much as $4,000. Last year, the event raised $5 million to support Kennedy Center programs.
The awards were presented Saturday night at a State Department dinner hosted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She addressed each honoree, beginning with Freeman, who once played the president in the movie "Deep Impact."
"I know that when you played the African-American president of the United States, most people thought that would happen when a comet hit," Rice said, drawing laughs and cheers. "But wonder of wonders, fiction has become true."
Freeman, 71, who starred this year in "The Dark Knight," also made headlines after suffering broken bones in a Mississippi car crash in August. On Saturday, the Oscar-winning actor said he was still recovering from nerve damage in his left hand and wore a glove to control the swelling.
Kennedy Center Chairman Stephen Schwarzman hailed the "extraordinary genius and tenacity" of the 2008 lifetime achievement award recipients.
Dancer Damian Woetzel hailed Tharp, 67, for "taking a dance and treating it like music." Her work has helped define modern dance, contemporary ballet and Broadway musicals.
Past honorees, including Clint Eastwood, Elton John and Sidney Poitier, made nominations for the awards, along with members of the Kennedy Center's national artists committee, including Glenn Close and Reba McEntire.