Bonnie Hammer went a few steps beyond the garden-variety charitable kudos acceptance speech Tuesday night at the Anti-Defamation League’s Humanitarian Award at the org’s annual showbiz gala fundraiser.
NBC Universal’s prexy of Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios "reined in the rhetoric" by citing, in detail, incidents from her own experience as a mother that taught her a lot about the pernicious subtleties of prejudice in kids who are raised in a progressive environment.
She noted that her brood is a blended family consisting of a daughter, Kimae, from her husband Dale Heussner’s previous marriage who is part Malaysian and part Caucasian; and her son, Jesse, now 14, who shares his mother’s Russian-Jewish heritage and Dale’s Midwestern WASP roots.
At an extended family dinner seven years ago, Jesse declared himself to be at least "one-eighth Chinese," judging from the diversity around the table. "That line brought down the house," Hammer recalled.
A year or so later, Jesse regaled his mother and father at dinner with a joke he’d picked up on the playground, which was crudely racist and utterly intolerant of Chinese cultural differences, Hammer recalled. The jolt reminded her of the importance of being vigilant and maintaining a zero-tolerance policy against stereotyping and expressions of ethnic bias even in its most seemingly innocuous forms (i.e. no brushing it off with "oh, he’s just a kid").
Hammer was saluted by the ADL for spearheading USA Network’s Emmy-winning "Erase the Hate" public service campaign in the 1990s during her first tour of duty at the now top-rated cabler. More recently, she’s championed USA’s "Character’s Unite" initiative designed to promote the importance of diversity in all aspects of life. Dule Hill and James Roday, stars of USA’s drama "Psych," emceed the dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel (which also doubled as a polling place on Tuesday).
As always, the evening included a witty tribute reel, full of pics and clips of the guest of honor sporting bygone hairdos and retro fashions that weren’t at the time.
(Pictured above: Bonnie Hammer and U Studios prexy Ron Meyer)