The Kennedy Center Honors have been awarded annually, since 1978 by the Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The honorees are recognized for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts.
Nominations are made to the Board of Trustees by past honorees and members of the center's national artists committee. For 2003 Honors, recommendations came from Jane Alexander, Dan Akroyd, Antonio Banderas, Joshua Bell, Dave Brubeck, Kevin Costner, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Douglas, Nora Ephron, Renee Fleming, Paloma Herrera, Gregory Hines, Anthony Hopkins, Angelica Huston, Jeremy Irons, Nathan Lane, Jaime Laredo, Yo-Yo Ma, Wynton Marsalis, Rob Marshall, Audra McDonald, Sherrill Milnes, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Martin Scorsese, Sissy Spacek, Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep, Heather Watts, and Jerry Zaks.
The awards are given at a United States Department of State dinner held the night before the annual Honors Gala at the Kennedy Center Opera House. A White House reception is also given in their honor.