WASHINGTON, December 5, 2011 (AFP) - President Barack Obama said Sunday jokingly that he wanted to know the secret of American cellist Yo-Yo Ma's popularity as he hosted a White House reception for winners of the Kennedy Center awards.
"Maybe the most amazing thing about Yo-Yo Ma is that everybody likes him! You have got to give me some tips!" said Obama, who is running for a second presidential term.
Yo-Yo Ma, 56, was born in France to a family of Chinese immigrants that later moved to the United States.
Obama recalled that when the musician was just seven years old, he performed in the East Room of the White House for president John F. Kennedy.
Obama also noted that Yo-Yo Ma had been named by People Magazine the sexiest men alive and had appeared on Sesame Street, a popular children's television show.
"I thought about asking him to go talk to Congress," joked the president, who has seen most of his legislative proposals blocked by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
The Kennedy Center awards have been presented annually since 1978. In addition to Yo-Yo Ma, the winners this year include actress Meryl Streep, saxophonist Sonny Rollins, country singer Neil Diamond and Broadway singer Barbara Cook.
The president also underscored the talent of Meryl Streep, who in the course of her career had received 16 Academy Award nominations and 25 Golden Globe nominations, thus becoming the most nominated US actress in these two categories.
Streep has actually won two Oscars and seven Golden Globes.
"Meryl Streep, anybody who saw 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' had a crush on her," Obama remarked. "I assume ... everybody remembers that."