The International Rescue Committee raised $20 million at the annual Rescue Dinner Benefit last night at the New York Hilton Midtown. The evening honored Michael R. Bloomberg and actress and director Liv Ullmann. Michael Bloomberg, through his foundation Bloomberg Philanthropies, announced a gift of $10 million. The funds raised will support the organization’s lifesaving humanitarian work around the world.
The Freedom Award is presented annually to individuals who have made extraordinary contributions in support of refugees, and who have championed the cause of liberty, individual freedom and dignity. This year’s Freedom Award was presented to Michael R. Bloomberg for his efforts to pioneer change on a global scale in the areas of public health, arts and culture, the environment, education, and government innovation. A bold and innovative entrepreneur, philanthropist, and public servant, Mr. Bloomberg’s actions continue to dramatically improve the lives of people around the world.
The evening also debuted a new IRC campaign video featuring members of the IRC staff, David Miliband and actor and comedian Keegan-Michael Key. The video features “Luther” the anger translator, a character created by Key. The video tackles the worsening refugee crisis head on – with the goal of motivating a new audience to step up, and turn that anger into action to help the IRC change millions of lives around the world each year.
“America has always opened its arms to the most vulnerable and given them a chance to start anew. And in return, they’ve given us back so much. Refugees have started companies and created jobs, cured deadly diseases, and produced iconic art and literature. They’ve bravely defended our country, and the freedoms we all enjoy. New York City has benefitted from the contributions of refugees more than any other place in America, and maybe even the world. And so it’s fitting that this is the home of the IRC, which really is making a big difference,” said Bloomberg.
Liv Ullmann received the John C. Whitehead Humanitarian Award. This award was created in recognition of Mr. Whitehead’s half-century of transformational leadership of the IRC and is presented annually to individuals who embody Mr. Whitehead’s spirit and passion for humanitarian causes and who have made significant contributions to saving and improving lives around the world. Ms. Ullmann was recognized for her compassionate advocacy on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable and for her contributions to saving and improving lives of refugees and the displaced.
Other guests in attendance included: Meryl Streep, Henry Kissinger, Tom Brokaw, Keegan-Michael Key, Brian Roberts, Danny Boyle, Vicky Cornell and Praya Lundberg. Recording artist K’naan took to the stage to perform “Fatima” and “Wavin Flag.”
In her acceptance speech, Ullman reflected on her ancestors who were refugees, driven from their homes in Oslo during World War II after her grandfather was targeted for helping Jewish families escape danger in their own country.
“I never got to meet my grandfather, but he inspired me anyway by his model choice not to sit still,” Ullman said. “I am deeply grateful to the IRC for showing us a path forward into the future where all can be – and where no one can come up to another and say, ‘You do not belong.’”
“Tonight’s record breaking funding will make a difference around the world and across the United States – and we are thankful for these funds tonight. But the truth is these times ask us for more than money. These times ask us to stand together in a common cause, and that cause is as old as time. It’s as precious as life and its now being challenged and contested like never before. It is the idea that all of us have a duty to strangers and when we fulfill our duty, we make them stronger and we make ourselves stronger too. That is the credo of this organization,” said, David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee.