August 5, 2009 / 2:23 AM / 10 years ago

Steven Spielberg awarded medal as champion of freedom

LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - Filmmaker Steven Spielberg is to be awarded the 2009 Liberty Medal for being a champion of freedom with “his artistic and personal commitment to the preservation of human rights.”

Director Steven Spielberg arrives for a Film Society Gala Tribute to honor actor Tom Hanks with the Chaplin Award in New York April 27, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The National Constitution Center, which presents the Liberty Medal each year, said Spielberg had informed and inspired millions of people to better understand the call of liberty through his films in which humanity triumphs over tyranny.

His films that deal with issues like the Holocaust, slavery, and war include “The Color Purple,” “Schindler’s List,” “Amistad” and “Saving Private Ryan.”

“Spielberg has also dedicated 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 center said in a statement on Tuesday.

The center’s president, Linda Johnson, said Spielberg had shown through his work in film and philanthropy that everyone had the power to make a difference.

“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,” Spielberg said in a statement.

After filming “Schindler’s List” in 1993, which was based on the true story of a man who risked his life to save 1,100 people from the Holocaust, Spielberg established the Shoah Foundation to chronicle and preserve video and oral histories of Holocaust survivors and witnesses.

The collection is now the largest archive of its kind in the world with 52,000 videos and 105,000 hours of testimony in 32 languages, representing 56 countries.

The foundation now intends to collect testimony from the survivors and witnesses of other genocides and is currently in the process of gathering personal histories from survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Last year the Liberty Medal, which was established in 1988, was presented to former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev for his role in ending the Cold War.

Other recipients of the annual award include Nelson Mandela, Bono, Shimon Peres, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan and Leh Valensa.

Spielberg, 62, who has won three Academy awards, will be presented with the medal by former U.S. President Bill Clinton on October 8 at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Sugita Katyal

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