“Growing up, my whole life, it just felt like oftentimes governments fail us,” George told reporters outside of the New York Public Library. “We need to, all of us, be diligent and fight for it — and that’s why we’re here tonight — because we have people who are risking their lives to do it, and risking their freedom willingly, which a lot of people aren’t.”
The married couple formed the Albie Awards to honor individuals who, at great personal risk, have devoted their lives to justice. Many celebrity guests walked the red carpet including Oscar Isaac, Dua Lipa, John Oliver, Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore, Ethan Hawke and Meryl Streep.
Speaking on the red carpet, Alfre Woodward dismissed the idea that actors shouldn’t be vocal about humanitarian issues.
“Are we supposed to pretend that we’re dumb? We’re not in the friggin’ Westminster puppy show,” Woodard told Variety. “Shame on anybody that’s a thinking person that believes there’s someplace they shouldn’t be. I don’t buy it. It says we’re not human beings. It says that we don’t care and feel for the people that we tell stories for.”
The award ceremony is named after Justice Albie Sachs, who was a key activist in ending apartheid in South Africa. Dr. Eric Esrailian, a Clooney Foundation for Justice board member, told Variety that the organization hopes that “Albie Sachs starts to be a name that people start thinking about in terms of what he has done for human rights around the world.”
Sachs was honored with a lifetime achievement award, while Filipino journalist Maria Ressa was honored with the Justice for Journalists award. The event was sponsored by Charlotte Tilbury Beauty, Microsoft and Giorgio Armani, among many others. Esrailian said that the foundation was rightfully picky about its fundraising methods.
“Amal and George were very particular about not wanting to raise money for potential organizations that may be contributing to human rights violations in the world,” Esrailian said. “I respect that this is the first time in my life that somebody has said to me, ‘No thanks. We don’t need money from that person.’”
He continued, “Most organizations and most individuals are afraid to take on [different] types of issues because of the fact that it may affect their personal business. Amal and George are not concerned with that — and neither is the organization.”
“CBS Mornings” anchor Gayle King credited the Clooneys for placing journalists in the spotlight.
“Can you think of a better way to get attention than to have the two of them together saying, ‘Hey, people look at this — this is wrong?’” King said on the carpet. “It’s more than the lawyer and the A-list celeb. They both were saying that their parents were journalists. They have journalists in the family, and they want to make things right — and they’re doing that tonight.”
George told reporters that he and Amal “collaborate on everything” — including raising their 5-year-old twins, Alexander and Ella. He went on to credit his wife as well as the night’s honorees.
“This is an exciting one because Amal’s gotten journalists out of Egypt, out of Azerbaijan, prisons, out of all over the world, Myanmar — this is something she happens to be really especially gifted at,” George said. “And my father’s a journalist. I have a great affinity for them — her mother’s a journalist. So it’s really exciting for me when she’s able to get people who are wrongly accused for doing their job out [of confinement]. So, for me, it’s just — I couldn’t be more proud of my wife.”
As for the teachings George hopes to pass on to his children, he said, “Well, one is you teach them not to mix grain and grape, right? Because that’s the first thing you have to learn. Never do that. No, there’s tons of stuff, but the number one thing is [to] challenge people with power and defend people without power.”