MUMBAI: Filmmaker and humanitarian Steven Spielberg was presented with the National Constitution Center’s 2009 Liberty Medal for his artistic and personal commitment to the preservation of human rights. Spielberg accepted the Medal in a public ceremony in 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.
"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 National Constitution Center chairman, President William J. Clinton 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 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 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 ceremony was will be broadcast on WPVI-TV on Sunday, 18 October at 7:00 p.m.