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Oprah to receive Kennedy Center honors

"Wow-zee," Winfrey says after learning the news

Oprah Winfrey is among the five honorees who will receive Kennedy Center Honors, it was announced Tuesday.

Sir Paul McCartney, Merle Haggard, choreographer and dancer Bill T. Jones and lyricist-composer Jerry Herman ("Hello, Dolly!") will also be celebrated at the December ceremony.

Winfrey's reaction, according to The Washington Post, "Wow-zee!"

The talk show host, who will step down after 25 years to focus on launching her network, OWN, continued, "This feels like an official American citizenship in a very exclusive club of artists and contributors to the nation in a very special way. It feels like an elevated kind of award and there aren’t many in this category. They look at your work, your life work, who you are as a human being and the spirit of who you are as a human being. Not many honors look at that depth."

David Rubenstein, the center's chairman, explained the decision to include her: "For more than 25 years, Oprah Winfrey has established one of the most innovative careers in the entertainment world, with distinctive accomplishments in television and film."

This isn't the first time a television personality has been honored; in 1993, Johnny Carson received an award.

It's the second time McCartney has been nominated. He had to pull out of the ceremony due to a family obligation in 2002.

"We first asked if he had any relatives getting married the first week of December," joked George Stevens Jr., the longtime producer of the event, to the Post. "He is very pleased and we are pleased to have him in the group."

Said McCartney, who won the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song last June, "President Kennedy was such an icon for us in the Sixties and his presidency was so inspiring for so many people that it is a great pleasure for this kid from Liverpool to receive this honor."