Freedom Award Dinner 2007
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Freedom Award Honors United Nations Refugee Agency
The International Rescue Committee presented its Freedom Award to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, at its annual fundraising dinner in New York on November 7. “The Freedom Award is a symbol that we will only be able to fully enjoy our freedom when everyone else is able to enjoy theirs,” said António Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, at the ceremony. Although she was unable to attend the event, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie in a video message hailed the close partnership between UNHCR and the IRC.
Now in its 50th year, previous winners of the Freedom Award have included Winston Churchill (1958), Burmese Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (1995) and U.S. presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton (2006).
More than 750 guests attended the event at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, which officially kicked off a year-long celebration of the IRC’s 75th anniversary. IRC director of special events Ann Marie Duross said $2 million was raised. In addition, dinner chairman Jeffrey R. Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric, announced a gift from the GE Foundation of $1 million to help the IRC promote access to education for girls in northern Uganda.
Joyce Wanican, the IRC’s education program manager in northern Uganda, welcomed IRC supporters to the dinner and shared her own story of growing up in war ravaged northern Uganda where she worked for the IRC training teachers at a refugee camp. “Your presence here tonight supports our young stars, our scholars under the trees,” she said.
The evening’s emcee, Tom Brokaw, introduced the Voices of Uganda, a collaboration between young people from northern Uganda and the theatre program Voices in Harmony. Together, they write and perform plays based on the experiences of young people who have been displaced by the 21-year-long war. IRC international Vice Chairman Liv Ullmann and actors Melissa Fitzgerald and Dulè Hill, known for their roles in the television program The West Wing, presented several monologues based on interviews with survivors of the war.
Sahar Adish, a refugee from Afghanistan who was resettled in Virginia by the IRC, brought the evening to a moving conclusion with her account of how she and her family escaped the Taliban regime and eventually came to the U.S. Now a pre-med student at the University of Virginia, Adish recently received a George Foster Peabody Award for a film she helped to make telling her family’s story.
“This event was a fitting start to our 75th anniversary year,” said George Rupp. “I would like to thank the many overseers, board and staff members who contributed to the evening’s success.”
What Is Freedom?
In this our 75th year, we continue to celebrate Freedom. It is the core of our mission: “From Harm to Home.” People everywhere strive for it. It’s a universal aspiration. Yet it can evoke very different meanings around the world. We are asking people throughout the year to tell us how they understand freedom. Join us and describe what freedom means to you. Share your thoughts on our blog (please tell us a little bit about yourself) and read what others around the world have to say.