WASHINGTON — A few months ago, it looked like the annual Kennedy Center Honors program was in danger of being engulfed by the country’s current divisive political mood. Honoree Norman Lear, whose political activism goes back decades, threatened to boycott rather than attend any aspect of the ceremonies that involved President Donald Trump. With other members of the 2017 class of inductees expressing support for Lear’s position, a nasty showdown appeared to be looming — until Trump announced in late August that he and First Lady Melania Trump would not attend. Trump’s withdrawal cleared the way for a Kennedy Center Honors ceremony Sunday night that actually managed to skip the political drama and focus entirely on the artists being honored. Lear, the iconic television producer behind “All in the Family” and a string of other hits, reacted with mock surprise when asked about Trump’s absence. “Really? Wow!” Lear said as he entered the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. “I’m expecting a warm, funny, wonderful evening. My guess is that the focus tonight will be on the arts.” Lear’s prediction came true and the 40th annual Kennedy Center Honors event progressed with almost no mention of politics. In addition to Lear, Sunday night’s ceremony honored rapper and actor LL Cool J, dancer and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade and musicians Lionel Richie and Gloria Estefan. LL Cool J, (real name James Todd Smith) called the evening “an amazing, amazing moment” for a hip-hop artist who officials said was the youngest-ever Kennedy Center Honors recipient at 49. He said there were many deserving rappers and performers from his generation but would not go so far as to say that anybody deserved the honor over him. “I’m humble, but I’m not going to play pseudo-humble,” he said before the program. “I’m the one!” Each honoree received a lengthy and personally tailored onstage tribute sprinkled with surprise guests. Estefan was greeted with performances of her greatest hits and a solo performance by her daughter Emily. For LL Cool J, they recreated a club onstage with performances by Busta Rhymes and members of The Roots as well as a testimonial by Queen Latifah. For