But when Biden came to author Colson Whitehead, the president let slip he’s hoping to follow in the footsteps of the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner.
"Pretty good, man! I'm kind of looking for back-to-back myself,” Biden quipped to Whitehead.
Biden's comments echo those of first lady Jill Biden, who in February all but confirmed her 80-year-old husband would seek a second four-year term. If he runs, Biden will face at least one Democratic presidential primary challenger in self-help author Marianne Williamson, a 2020 also-ran who declared her 2024 presidential ambitions earlier this year.
On the Republican side, former President Donald Trump is running again despite the massive legal cloud looming over him. Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is also in, and any of several other Republicans — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina among them — are also considering presidential bids.
While Biden's exchange with Whitehead was a moment of levity, the president was also serious as he adorned some of the nation’s most talented and iconic figures with gold medals and high praise.
"You're amazing,” Biden told the winners. “And you do make this country better. You make it a better place."
The president seemed especially happy to highlight Mindy Kaling from "The Office," which is set in Biden’s real hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Though he also went out of his way to praise New Jersey’s Springsteen in the president’s very Delaware way.
“The boss is here. The boss is here,” Biden said some audience members let out, "Bruuuuuuce."
“As they say in South Philly and North Wilmington, ‘a Jersey boy,’” the president mustered through a Delaware-pretending-to-be-Jersey accent.
There was faint, unsustained laughter. Still, the president used the accent again.
“I married a Jersey girl,” Biden said before getting back to his prepared off the cuff remarks. “Bruce, some people are just born to run, man.”
The president honored a range of storied Americans, including Gladys "Empress of Soul” Knight, LGBTQI+ advocate and Democratic mega donor Fred Eychaner, and Henrietta Mann, who many see as the reason universities from coast-to-coast even offer Native American studies programs today.
“The National Humanities Medal recipients have enriched our world through writing that moves and inspires us; scholarship that enlarges our understanding of the past; and through their dedication to educating, informing, and giving voice to communities and histories often overlooked,” National Endowment for the Humanities Chair Shelly C. Lowe (Navajo), said in a release. “I am proud to join President Biden in recognizing these distinguished leaders for their outstanding contributions to our nation’s cultural life.”
National Endowment for the Humanities is a “presidentially-appointed and Senate-confirmed advisory body.” It reviews nominations and provides recommendations to the president who ultimately picks the select few award recipients.
Below is the full list of this year’s winners, though Sir Elton John already received his award last year after playing for Biden and an invited audience at the White House.
National Medal of Arts winners
Judith Francisca Baca, artist
Fred Eychaner, philanthropist
Jose Feliciano, musician
Mindy Kaling, actor
Gladys Knight, musician
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, actor
Antonio Martorell-Cardona, painter
Joan Shigekawa, producer and arts administrator
Bruce Springsteen, musician
Vera Wang, designer
The Billie Holiday Theatre
The International Association of Blacks in Dance
National Humanities Medal winners
Richard Blanco, writer
Johnnetta Betsch Cole, anthropologist
Walter Isaacson, writer
Earl Lewis, historian
Henrietta Mann, Native American academic
Ann Patchett, writer
Bryan Stevenson, lawyer and activist
Amy Tan, writer
Tara Westover, writer
Colson Whitehead, writer
Native America Calling, radio show