Humanitarian org Unite4:Good teamed up with Variety for its first-ever Unite4:Humanity event honoring the philanthropic work of former president Bill Clinton, Robert De Niro, Selena Gomez, Alicia Keys, Philomena Lee, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Demi Lovato, Martin Scorsese and John Sykes.
The star-studded event, hosted by “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” star Andy Samberg, was held Thursday night on the Sony Pictures lot.
Samberg intentionally “set the bar really low” as he kicked off the evening with a few jokes before turning things over to Jane Fonda, who spoke about the unity recognition award that would be presented to Clinton. Forest Whitaker then took the stage to introduce Clinton and his multiple humanitarian efforts, including the Clinton Global Initiative.
“(Clinton) is able to give us a singularity of purpose, and that is to aid humanity,” Whitaker said. “When he brings enough of us together, we can create light.”
In his acceptance speech, Clinton touched on everything from the conflict in Ukraine, to the Middle East and the inspiration of the late Nelson Mandela. He also emphasized the importance of global cooperation in order to create a better future for all nations.
“Every time you do something that builds up the positive and reduces the negative forces in our interdependence, you are uniting for humanity,” Clinton said. “We have to build a future of shared prosperity,” he added.
Clinton also cited findings from the Human Genome Project, funded during his presidency, as a means of recognizing the similarities between all people.
“You are 99.5 percent identical to everybody here, and yet we all spend 99.5 percent of our time thinking about the 0.5 percent of us that is different,” Clinton explained. “We have to spend more time thinking about the 99.5 percent of us that is the same as everybody else.”
“Philomena” star and co-writer Steve Coogan joked “Try following a president” as he took the stage to present the everyday hero award to the real Philomena Lee, who made the audience tear up with her emotional testimony.
“All I ever wanted was to find my son Anthony. I was never able to tell him that I loved him,” she said. “But now, through the Philomena Project, I can tell the thousands of other women and children who found themselves in this situation that there is no need for them to feel ashamed anymore.”
Following the presentation of $25,000 grants to the five inspriation award winners by Unite 4:Good founder Anthony Melikhov, Eva Longoria spoke about her personal relationship with Young Luminary honoree Lovato before playing a clip of highlights from the singer’s recent service trip to Africa.
Lovato discussed her work with initiatives Free the Children and We Day and spending her 21st birthday in Africa.
“I’ve been through a lot and I’ve struggled a lot with personal issues,” Lovato said. “I used to spend so much time thinking about my body.”
She added: “I had to celebrate my 21st birthday differently than a lot of other people. It was so much more incredible than poisoning myself for a good night out.”
The songstress then treated guests to acoustic performances of her hits “Skyscraper” and “Warrior.”
Following Lovato’s set, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. presented “Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus with the Creative Commitment in TV award for her many years of dedication to Heal the Bay.
Longtime Haitian relief supporter Sean Penn was on hand to bestow Creative Commitment in film kudos to Robert De Niro, who said he prefers to keep his charity work private.
“You’ll never see the Robert De Niro building at Harvard, or the Robert De Niro YMCA or the Robert De Niro pavilion at Cedars-Sinai, although that last one has a nice ring to it,” he teased.
Clear Channel media president and media social visionary John Sykes kept the laughs coming as he noted, “I think I’m the only honoree who had to be Googled.”
William H. Macy then spoke about Gomez’s work with UNICEF, and the singer-actress took a moment to thank Lovato for inspiring her to continue her humanitarian work.
De Niro returned to present the creative conscience award to the Scorsese and poked fun at the helmer’s most recent film in light of the honor he was receiving.
“The creative conscience award? Are you kidding me? Have you guys not seen ‘The Wolf of Wall Street?’” De Niro quipped.
Jada Pinkett Smith presented the final award of the night to music visionary Alicia Keys, who was recognized for her work to fight against the AIDS epidemic with the org “Keep a Child Alive.”
Keys then took to the piano and brought down the house with performances of “No One” and “Empire State of Mind” to close out the night.