Known as the Poet of the Common Man, Merle Haggard received a lifetime achievement award for the performing arts as part of the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors. Meeting President Obama, Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and a number of others, the country singer had some down-home insights into the lives of the nation’s most popular figures. Get the full story, plus pictures and video below!

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Once part of the outlaw county movement in the 1970’s, the Common Man’s Poet was jailed for three years in California before receiving a full pardon from then-governor Ronald Regan. He was honored last night in Washington D.C. with performances by Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow, Vince Gill, Brad Paisley and Kid Rock.

Not surprisingly, the Kennedy Center Honors award winner immediately came to the defense of musical colleague Willie Nelson, who was arrested again recently for possession of marijuana.

“There are some people in this world that have no idea what the real deal is. … I think it’s silly to put someone in jail for (marijuana possession). I think it’s a threat to the pharmaceutical industry that you can go to the garden to grow something that might keep you from having to use Lipitor. I would hope they would get off his back.”

What did surprise most was his candid appraisal of President Obama. Earlier this month, the White House invited Merle Haggard to spend an afternoon with the President and his wife, and later said to Rolling Stone that he was shocked at how different the man was from the way he’s portrayed in the media.

“He’s very humble about being the president of the United States, especially in comparison to some presidents we’ve had who come across like they don’t need anybody’s help,” he said in the interview. “I think he knows he’s in over his head. Anybody with any sense who takes that job and thinks they can handle it must be an idiot.”

Think what you may of Kennedy Center Honoree Merle Haggard, the man has a way of telling it like it is. What do you think of the country singer’s award last night? Check out pictures and video of the night’s honoree below and then let me know your thoughts in the comment section!

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Photos: Garbo