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TV legend Norman Lear is one of the five artists being celebrated at Sunday's Kennedy Center Honors.
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Ask comedy auteur Norman Lear his response to being selected for the Kennedy Center Honors, a career celebration of esteemed artists, and the 95-year-old TV legend, not surprisingly, takes the mordant route.

“It feels elderly,” he says, chuckling. Then, he switches gears: “It feels great. I couldn’t be more pleased.”

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Lear, famed for such groundbreaking 1970s comedies as All in the Family, Maude and The Jeffersons, was honored Dec. 3 with actress, dancer and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade, singer-songwriter and actress Gloria Estefan; hip-hop artist LL Cool J; and musician and record producer Lionel Richie.

The 40th annual honors ceremony, held at the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington, D.C., will be broadcast on CBS on Dec. 26 (9 ET/PT).

The honorees might have had a little more time on their hands that  weekend thanks to Lear and de Lavallade, who said they would boycott the traditional White House reception because of their opposition to President Trump. The White House later canceled the reception and issued a statement saying the president and first lady Melania Trump would not attend the ceremony "to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction."

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Singer Gloria Estefan will be honored Sunday at the Kennedy Center Honors.
Jesus Cordero, The Kennedy Center Honors

Lear, a longtime progressive who is at odds with the president's policies in many areas, including support of the arts, explains his decision to boycott.

"Because he's made me feel it's not my White House," he tells USA TODAY. "But I've gotten over that. It is my White House. It oughtn't to be his."

Asked what he thinks of Trump's decision not to have the traditional reception, Lear says confidently: "You mean the decision that supported me?"

Lear can't imagine some of his classic shows, such as All in the Family and Sanford and Son, being remade in his lifetime. He credits talented actors such as Carroll O'Connor, who played Family's Archie Bunker, and Redd Foxx, Fred Sanford in Sanford.

"I wouldn't know where to find those people," he says. "They were indelible."

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Singer and music producer Lionel Richie is in this year's esteemed class at the Kennedy Center Honors.
Dirk Vanoucek, The Kennedy Center Honors

Lear hears from fans young and old who enjoy his classic shows.

Some are "people who remember watching when they were kids with their parents," he says. "At colleges around the country where there are courses in media, I hear from a lot of" younger people, too.

Lear, who launched a podcast this year, remains busy with TV projects. He's an executive producer of One Day at a Time, a Netflix reboot of his 1975-84 sitcom that now features a Latino family; he's a producer and correspondent on American Divided on Epix; and he has a deal with NBC for Guess Who Died, a comedy focused on a group often neglected in entertainment: older people.

Lear doesn't plan to include Trump commentary in upcoming scripts. "I hope not, because I hope this president won't be there."