President Barack Obama was honored for his commitment to human rights at the Ambassadors for Humanity Gala which celebrated the USC Shoah Foundation’s 20th anniversary. In attendance were notable celebrities and high-level entertainment industry figures. The primary goal of the foundation is to acquire and preserve the testimonials from Holocaust survivors and other genocide victims.
Obama was not the only one in attendance. A vast and dynamic range of entertainment stars were invited to show their support for the foundation and its goals. Star of Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award winning film classic Schindler’s List, Liam Nesson, began the ceremony Wednesday evening by explaining the impact the film had on himself, and the community, and how it lead Spielberg to establish the Shoah foundation. Kim Kardashian offered her eclectic involvement in the evening when she tweeted about her wardrobe, and her affinity in supporting testimonies from Armenian genocide victims. Bruce Springsteen offered an emotional performance of “The Promised Land” and “Dancing in the Dark”. Conan O’Brien assumed hosting privileges for the night: offering funny and lighthearted commentary as comic relief from the deeply depressing subject matter. O’Brien even took a good natured jab at the traffic Obama caused: saying, “I know you left Washington six hours ago, but I left Burbank seven hours ago.”
Steven Spielberg himself introduced and honored President Barack Obama with the Ambassador for Humanity award.“In the face of acts of inhumanity, President Obama has not stood by,” Spielberg stated. “He has staked our claim on shaping a better world. He has said that as long as America can do something, be it military, economic through moral example or even grass-roots inspiration, we will do what we can.” Obama then gave a speech concerning matters of the humanitarian effort the country faces. Obama stated that even though he wakes up every morning pondering on what he can do better in this field, he still feels a sense of powerlessness in solving a significant amount of the world’s issues. He went on to explain his frustrations with being unable to provide rescue for the Nigerian girls who have been kidnapped by a militant group; which he has been criticized for his lack of forceable intervention. “… There are times in which I want to reach out and save those kids.” He described that despite this innate urge to save these girls, he must always acknowledge the complexities of how his actions might lead to debilitating consequences later on.
President Obama offered his compliments to Steven Spielberg as well. Describing the director’s tour de force Holocaust film as an everlasting reminder that the Holocaust is not distant history. That the voices, memories, and struggles of the survivors are a part of us. “It entered our DNA…That’s what Steven does.” He showed his genuine admiration to Spielberg for continuing, after the film, to pursue more stories from that era to educate the public. A “rescue mission” to preserve voices of the past that would be much more painless to forget. Using Shoah as an example, Obama inspired the audience to always remember that silence and indifference is evil’s most valued co-conspirator, and urged everyone to constantly combat racism and bigotry.
By Andres Loubriel