Liberty Medal presented to Spielberg
National Constitution Center, Philadelphia
October 8, 2009
(Pool/Laurence Kesterson/Philadelphia Inquirer/MCT)
Under a gorgeous autumn sky on Independence Mall in Philadelphia,
director Steven Spielberg received the Liberty City Medal in a
ceremony at the National Constitution Center October 8.
President Bill Clinton, current chairman of the Center presented the
award to Spielberg, after Philadelphia Mayor Nutter, Governor Ed
Rendell and other dignitaries spoke about the filmmaker‘s artistic and
humanitarian contributions. In his acceptance speech the director
talked about freedom and patriotism.
He recited the preamble to the constitution, which is etched on the
Constitution Center’s south wall, calling the words “a lesson in art.”
He called Jefferson and Lincoln “writers of genius….These were great
artists.” He made a plea for government to be committed to making
art and making “a better world.”
“Art is one way the human community remembers what it has been
through,” he said, and can serve as a mitzvah in “repairing a broken
world.” Spielberg said.
Spielberg joins a distinguished list of activists and world figures to
receive the Medal – Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan,
Presidents Clinton and George H.W.Bush, to name a few. But,
Spielberg is one of only a few in the arts and the only filmmaker to
receive the award. Bono was awarded in 2007 for his worldwide
humanitarian work and Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic
and playwright, won in 1994.
Several speakers noted Spielberg’s impact on American cinema,
particularly his films that deal with racism, anti-Semitism, war and
the importance of remembering victims of genocide. Rendell also
noted his impact lighter fare, he thanked him for the pure thrills
Spielberg gave audiences in film like Jaws and E.T.
Clips were shown from ’The Color Purple’ which was the first of the
director’s films to deal with serious social issues. ‘View’ host
Whoopie Goldberg, who starred in the movie, spoke about Spielberg’s
unique relationship with actors. “He gets it.” she said, after a few
meandering jokes. Scenes from ’Amistad’ ’Saving Private Ryan’ and
‘Schindler’s List’ were also shown.
Clinton said Spielberg has distinguished himself “As a filmmaker as
a humanitarian and a citizen activist… He noted that the director
used “ proceed from ‘Schindler’s List’ to establish the Shoah
Foundation. “105,000 hours of precious footage and now they are
working to do the same thing to record the survivors of the Rwandian
genocide.” Clinton notedthat just when people were starting to forget and even deny Nazi
atrocities against Jews, Spielberg made Schindler’s List.
Musicians from the Curtis Institute of Music played the somber theme
from “Schindler’s List” and folk guitarist Richie Havens, looking
ageless and sounding better than ever, performed ‘Motherless Child’
with the refrain of freedom, ringing out over Independence Mall.