Thursday night at the International Rescue Committee’s Rescue Dinner, held at the New York Hilton Midtown, one of the night’s honorees, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, took a moment while receiving his “ill-deserved but much-appreciated award” to reflect on the organization’s work on behalf of refugees.
“I’m proud to say that America has always opened its arms to the most vulnerable, and given them a chance to start anew. In return, they’ve given us back so much,” he said to an audience that included Lester Holt and director Danny Boyle. “Refugees have started companies, created jobs, cured deadly diseases and created iconic art and literature,” Bloomberg said. “They bravely defended our country, and the freedoms that we all enjoy.”
“New Yorkers have benefited from refugees more than any place in America, maybe even the world,” he added. He also commented on the various refugee and humanitarian crises across the world, including Syria, the South Sudan, and Myanmar, which the council is trying to ameliorate by providing medical assistance, clean water, education, resettlement assistant, and much more.
“It is a crisis of so many causes and no easy solutions, but we can’t sit back, throw up our hands, and do nothing while people suffer,” he continued. “I think that as Americans, and as New Yorkers, we have a special responsibility to lend a hand.”
The council also honored actress and director Liv Ullmann, who noted in her speech that by the time the night’s dinner had ended, more than 4,300 people around the world will have been forced to flee their homes. The night also featured remarks from IRC president David Miliband, and speeches from Iran refugee Rooha Hagar and Democratic Republic of Congo refugee Oliver Kwete, who talked about how the organization helped them resettle to America and thrive.
The night was largely a somber affair, except for a fundraising video featuring actor Keegan-Michael Key, who reprised Luther, a character from his “Key & Peele” sketch show series. In the video, the now unemployed “anger translator” for former President Obama got a chance to be outraged about the amount of displaced people in the world, but also learned how to take action.
Speaking to Variety before the dinner, Key admitted that in the current political climate, it can be difficult to remain hopeful that the world can solve the refugee crisis. Still, he insisted “it doesn’t matter that it’s tough. We just have to do what our grandparents and great-grandparents did, which is just suck it up and help people. Because you would never want to be in the situation they’re in.”