Steven Spielberg Receives 2009 Liberty Medal at the National Constitution Center
Award presented by President William J. Clinton
PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Filmmaker and humanitarian Steven Spielberg was presented with the National Constitution Center’s 2009 Liberty Medal tonight for his artistic and personal commitment to the preservation of human rights. Spielberg accepted the prestigious Medal in a public ceremony at 6:30 p.m. at the National Constitution Center on Independence Mall in Historic Philadelphia.
Through his award-winning films, Spielberg presents stories of the struggle and triumph of humanity over tyranny, informing and inspiring millions to better understand the abiding call of liberty. Spielberg also dedicates himself to gathering and archiving the testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust, ensuring future generations will never forget the tragedy of liberty lost.
“The Founding Fathers called upon each of us to serve as active participants in our democracy. Through his work in film and philanthropy, Steven Spielberg has heeded that call by reminding us of the power each of us has to make a difference,” said National Constitution Center President and Chief Executive Officer Linda E. Johnson.
This year’s Liberty Medal was presented to Spielberg by President William J. Clinton, Chairman of the National Constitution Center, who said, “Continuing in the National Constitution Center’s rich tradition of honoring distinguished leaders who have shown a commitment to change through action, we have once again chosen a highly deserving champion of freedom.”
“I am thrilled to be honored by my dear friend, President Clinton, and to be recognized by an organization unprecedented in its devotion to the most relevant and significant document in our nation’s history,” said Spielberg. “It’s truly humbling to be added to the distinguished list of past recipients, a group of men and women whom I admire deeply for their commitment to educating the world about the importance of freedom and the blessings of liberty.”
“As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Liberty Medal, it is fitting that we have chosen a recipient whose work resonates with people of all ages and cultures, encouraging thoughtful recognition of what it means to stand up for freedom,” said Governor Edward G. Rendell.
“As America’s cradle of freedom, the City of Philadelphia is proud to bestow this honor on one of the world’s most recognized humanitarians, whose work has touched the lives of millions and has ensured the important stories of our time live on,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter.
Through his powerful films, including The Color Purple, Empire of the Sun, Schindler’s List, Amistad, and Saving Private Ryan, and his work on the acclaimed HBO series Band of Brothers, Spielberg captures the stories of courageous people in this nation and abroad who have worked, fought, and sacrificed for the gift of freedom.
He established the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, after filming Schindler’s List in 1994, to chronicle and preserve video and oral histories of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust. The collection – the largest archive of its kind in the world – now stands at 52,000 videos with 105,000 hours of testimony in 32 languages, representing 56 countries.
In 2006, the Foundation became part of the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where the testimonies are currently being digitized and made available to people across the globe. Changing the name to the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, the University has broadened the institute’s mission and made its archival content readily accessible to educators, students, researchers, and scholars on every continent.
Additionally, the Foundation now intends to collect testimony from the survivors and witnesses of other genocides. It is currently in the process of gathering personal histories from survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in partnership with the Rwandan organization IBUKA. In 1998, Spielberg was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit with Ribbon of the Federal Republic of Germany by President Roman Herzog in recognition of Schindler’s List and the Shoah Foundation.
The Liberty Medal was established in 1988 by We the People 200 to commemorate the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, annually honoring men and women of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe. The Liberty Medal was administered by the National Constitution Center for the first time in 2006, when Presidents George H.W. Bush and William J. Clinton were honored for their bi-partisan humanitarian efforts on behalf of the victims of the tsunami in Southeast Asia and the hurricanes on the Gulf Coast. The 2007 Liberty Medal was awarded to Bono and DATA, the advocacy organization he co-founded to combat poverty and disease in Africa. Last year’s Liberty Medal was awarded to former Soviet leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mikhail Gorbachev for his courageous role in ending the dangerous, decades-long Cold War and in giving hope and freedom to millions who lived behind the Iron Curtain.
Other past Liberty Medal winners include Nelson Mandela, Shimon Peres, Kofi Annan, and Sandra Day O’Connor. The Medal has also been awarded to organizations, including Doctors Without Borders and CNN International. Six former recipients of the Medal have subsequently won the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Liberty Medal ceremony was webcast live on www.6abc.com and will be broadcast on WPVI-TV on Sunday, October 18 at 7:00 p.m.
Ira Lubert, of Independence Capital Partners, renewed his support for the Liberty Medal ceremony and sponsored the 2009 Liberty Medal Award. Citizens Bank was the presenting
sponsor for the Presidents Reception prior to the Liberty Medal ceremony. The Liberty Medal was also supported by the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The National Constitution Center, located at 525 Arch St. on Philadelphia’s Independence Mall, is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing public understanding of the U.S. Constitution and the ideas and values it represents. The Center serves as a museum, an education center, and a forum for debate on constitutional issues. The museum dramatically tells the story of the Constitution from Revolutionary times to the present through more than 100 interactive, multimedia exhibits, film, photographs, text, sculpture and artifacts, and features a powerful, award-winning theatrical performance, “Freedom Rising”. The Center also houses the Annenberg Center for Education and Outreach, which serves as the hub for national constitutional education. Also, as a nonpartisan forum for constitutional discourse, the Center presents – without endorsement – programs that contain diverse viewpoints on a broad range of issues. For more information, call 215.409.6700 or visit www.constitutioncenter.org.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A complete list of Liberty Medal winners follows.
Past Recipients of the Liberty Medal
2008 Mikhail Gorbachev, former Soviet leader
2007 Bono and DATA (joint prize)
2006 George H.W. Bush and William J. Clinton, former U.S. Presidents (joint prize)
2005 Viktor Yushchenko, President of Ukraine
2004 Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan
2003 Sandra Day O’Connor, Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court
2002 Colin Powell, U.S. Secretary of State
2001 Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General*
2000 Dr. James Watson and Dr. Francis Crick, co-discoverers of the structure of DNA (joint prize)
1999 Kim Dae Jung, President of South Korea*
1998 Senator George J. Mitchell, Irish peace negotiator
1997 CNN International
1996 King Hussein I of Jordan and Shimon Peres, former Prime Minister of Israel (joint prize)
1995 Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees
1994 Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic
1993 F.W. de Klerk, President of South Africa* and Nelson Mandela, President of the African National Congress* (joint prize)
1992 Thurgood Marshall, former Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court
1991 Oscar Arias, President of Costa Rica and Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders)* (joint prize)
1990 Jimmy Carter, former U.S. President*
1989 Lech Walesa, founder of Solidarity, Poland
* Liberty Medal recipients who subsequently won the Nobel Peace Prize
SOURCE National Constitution Center