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Wednesday night’s Save the Children Illumination Gala was remarkably devoid of references to stories dominating the news cycle. There was no talk of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the many women who’ve come forward with tales of sexual assault and harassment in recent days or calls to change the culture in Hollywood and beyond. There were no references to President Donald Trump, who has dominated virtually every news cycle since he announced he was running for president.
In fact, there was no talk of politics at all at the event attended by former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife and Save the Children board chair Dr. Jill Biden — well, except perhaps for one notable exception. Host Craig Melvin, of NBC News, joked as he introduced Jill Biden that she’d like people to stop asking her if her husband is running for president, if she is running or if she knows of anyone who would like to become the next commander-in-chief.
Still, both the former second lady and fellow Save the Children trustee and gala co-chair Jennifer Garner made references to troubled times.
“We are all living in difficult times, aren’t we? From famine to war, to terrorism, to mass killings to natural disasters,” Biden told guests seated below the blue whale at New York’s Museum of Natural History. “But when I look around this room at each of you, I see immense hope. I know that no matter how dark our present may seem, how great our challenges are, when good people use their power to do good work, we will find our way to the light.”
Garner — who has been a longtime vocal supporter of Save the Children and even hosted past iterations of the organization’s annual Illumination Gala — added in one of her many onstage appearances Wednesday night: “I am here to tell you that, yes, we have some troubles perhaps in our country and our world, but that just means you have to fight harder for your optimism — you have to fight harder and hold onto your faith, and the way that I’ve done that over the past 10 years is visiting kids and families for Save the Children.”
Wilde talked about her trip to a refugee camp in Jordan with Save the Children last year.
“It was really incredible because not only was I able to witness their programs in action on the ground, but I was able to meet many of the mothers of children who were benefiting from Save the Children within the camps. I was four months pregnant at the time, and it was incredible to understand how little difference there was between us, and just by the luck of the life lottery, they were living in that camp and I was not,” the actress told The Hollywood Reporter. “But we had everything else in common — we were mothers, we cared most for our children and we just wanted to be able to have safe childbirth, have safe places for our children, safe health care for them, safe education and to give them a chance. It was impossible not to recognize our human connection.”
Wilde added that she hoped recognizing the “human connection” would lead to greater action regarding the “refugee crisis,” and she was encouraged by Save the Children’s support for refugees at a time when the Trump administration has sought to place new restrictions on refugees coming to the U.S.
“Until our government recognizes [refugees] as human beings, we can rely on organizations like Save the Children,” Wilde said.
Fanning said she was inspired by the girls she met last year on the International Day of the Girl who have benefited from Save the Children’s programs.
“Getting to see that first-hand and getting to meet somebody who now had access to a better education to reach for their dreams was very inspiring and moving, and I definitely think about issues that girls face here and around the world,” Fanning told THR.
During the gala, Save the Children honored Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, Bulgari North America and OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, with Leona Lewis performing two songs co-written by Tedder.
Tedder also spoke about his work with Save the Children, which he said stretches back the better part of a decade.
“My wife and I, we flew into Guatemala and actually saw real people with Save the Children in real villages, hands on, developing work projects and enabling these people to rise up out of Third World poverty and absolute lack of health care or access to health care, all of these unnecessary [situations] in 2017. A big part of the world is still living like it’s 1860. And I think Save the Children is doing a great job of helping them matriculate into the modern era,” he said. “[This is] actually a real organization that does real stuff that changes people’s lives.”
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