Humanitarian Award


Our missions is to combat indifference, intolerance and injustice through international dialogues and youth focused programs that promote acceptance, understanding and equality.

Humanitarian Award

The Humanitarian award was created to recognize outstanding individuals who dedicate their time to fighting indifference, intolerance and injustice and whose accomplishments are consistent with the goals of the Foundation.

According to the Jewish philosopher Maimonides (1135-1204) the highest form of charity is that which is anonymous. In Judaism, tzedakah boxes are used to collect anonymous donations for the poor. With that in mind, recipients of the Humanitarian Award receive tzedakah boxes designed to resemble the boxes which were found in synagogues throughout Eastern Europe until the Second World War.

Past recipients of the Award include:

Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the French Republic

Honored with the Elie Wiesel Foundation's Humanitarian Award

“Statesman, visionary, humanist: these words best describe Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the French Republic. Quick to respond to international crises, such as those in Colombia, Georgia and the Middle East, he has become a world leader whose determination is bringing nations and cultures together in a common quest for stability and peace.”– Elie Wiesel

As President, Nicolas Sarkozy has emerged as a powerful leader in the international community. Shortly after taking office, he began negotiations with Columbian President Alvaro Uribe and FARC regarding the release of 15 hostages held by the rebel group. His efforts led directly to the mission that successfully secured their release from captivity, including Franco-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, held captive for 6 years. Most recently, with France as holder of the European Union presidency, he played a crucial role in mediating a cease-fire between Russia and Georgia.

The crisis in Darfur has been a major focus of President Sarkozy’s tenure. Last June, President Sarkozy initiated and chaired a ministerial meeting in Paris regarding peace and security in Africa to increase international mobilization around the efforts of the African Union, European Union and the UN in Darfur and the region. Recent discussions have addressed the need for facilitating humanitarian aid jointly decided upon by Sudan and the UN, and the prospect of a hybrid peacekeeping force.

A visionary with important goals for his country and the world, President Sarkozy is especially dedicated to improving environmental conditions. During the G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, President Sarkozy committed to various initiatives, including a program of tax measures and investment plans aimed to change attitudes towards the environment and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The Elie Wiesel Foundation honored President Sarkozy with its Humanitarian Award on September 22, 2008 at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City. The Foundation chose to bestow this award upon President Sarkozy in recognition of his commitment to renew and strengthen France’s ties to the United States, his steadfast support of Israel and his global humanitarian efforts.

Participants in the program, in addition to Elie and Marion Wiesel and President Sarkozy, included television news anchor Brian Williams, actor Michael Douglas, and Violinist Sirena Huang.

Oprah Winfrey

Honored with the Elie Wiesel Foundation's Humanitarian Award

“Vision, authenticity and greatness: you say ‘Oprah’ and these words spring to your mind. Oprah the public figure and Oprah the friend are one and the same person, never violating the covenant she made with society: to help the helpless and give a voice to the voiceless.” –Elie Wiesel

The Elie Wiesel Foundation honored Oprah Winfrey with its Humanitarian Award on May 20, 2007 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. The Foundation chose to bestow this award upon Ms. Winfrey in recognition of her global humanitarian efforts.

Ms. Winfrey has used her overwhelming success and popularity to positively impact the lives of people all over the world, particularly children, and to encourage others to make a positive difference in the world. Ms. Winfrey’s conviction that education is key to a better future is evident in the initiatives of her private charity and her newly established Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.

Participants in the program, in addition to Elie and Marion Wiesel and Ms. Winfrey, included television personalities Ted Koppel and Barbara Walters, soprano Jessye Norman, violinist Itzhak Perlman, Oscar winner Sidney Poitier, the Empire Brass Quintet and the Young People’s Chorus of New York.

Laura Bush

Honored with the Elie Wiesel Foundation's Humanitarian Award

The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity honored Laura Bush with its Humanitarian Award on October 7, 2002 at a dinner ceremony held at The Plaza in New York City. Mrs. Bush received the award for recognition of her life-long commitment to education.

“We are especially proud to honor Mrs. Bush with our Humanitarian Award for her generous and continuous contributions to education in America She has urged more Americans to become teachers and more parents to prepare young children to learn in school,” commented Elie Wiesel, co-founder with his wife, Marion, of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. “She has worked to help children to obtain enough self-confidence to enrich their lives, to the great benefit of our society.”

Through her national initiative called Ready to Read, Ready to Learn, Mrs. Bush has constantly stressed American children’s literary needs. Her involvement in education and reading began in her youngest years and guided her to a career as a Texas public school teacher and librarian.

“The most important gift we can give all children is the gift most likely to lead to peace and prosperity – and that is the gift of a good education,” Mrs. Bush said. “Children who are educated have greater self-respect for others, and a far greater chance of success.”

James Earl Jones served as Master of Ceremonies for the Award Dinner, which included performances by the Boys Choir of Harlem.  Award Dinner Chairman Maurice Lévy, Chairman and CEO of the Publicis Groupe, S.A. summed up the significance of the night’s affair by saying, “I am very proud that our group has been associated with this initiative. Education is the most precious asset we can transmit to future generations to build the future.”

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton

Honored with the Elie Wiesel Foundation's Humanitarian Award

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, then First Lady of the United States, was honored with The Elie Wiesel Foundation’s Humanitarian Award for her advocacy on behalf of America’s children.  Senator Clinton was formerly a staff attorney for the Children’s Defense Fund, and served as its chair from 1986 to 1992.  She also chaired the Arkansas Education Standards Committee, founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, and introduced the Arkansas Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youth.  After taking office, President Clinton appointed the then First Lady to head his Task Force on National Health Care Reform.  Senator Clinton has truly been a voice of hope for our nation’s children.

Senator Clinton was presented with the Award at a Humanitarian Award Dinner at the New York Public Library in New York City on April 14, 1994.  Participants in the evening’s program included Charlie Rose, Dr. Paul LeClerc, Prime Minister Tansu Ciller, Barbara Streisand, and Bernard Kalb.

King Juan Carlos of Spain

Honored with the Elie Wiesel Foundation's Humanitarian Award

His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain, received The Elie Wiesel Foundation’s Humanitarian Award on October 7, 1991 for bringing democracy to his country through peaceful means.  After the death of General Franco, Don Juan Carlos was proclaimed King of Spain on November 22, 1975 by the Parliament.  The beginning of his reign represented the return of the democratic system to Spain, which he has strongly and decisively upheld. 

Held at The Pierre in New York City, participants in the Humanitarian Award Dinner program included Barbara Walters, Giovanni Agnelli, and Victoria de los Angeles.

President George H.W. Bush

Honored with the Elie Wiesel Foundation's Humanitarian Award

President George H.W. Bush, was given the Humanitarian Award in 1991 for opposing tyranny and defending democratic ideals during the Gulf War. As the inscription reads on the Award presented to him, the President defended victims of dictatorship and oppression with passion, courage and fervor.

President Bush was presented with the Award by Elie Wiesel in a ceremony in the Oval Office on March 18th. Also in attendance at the ceremony were Marion Wiesel and members of The Elie Wiesel Foundation’s Board of Directors.

Danielle Mitterrand

Honored with the Elie Wiesel Foundation's Humanitarian Award

Danielle Mitterrand, then First Lady of France, was honored with the Foundation’s first Humanitarian Award on March 30, 1989 for her passionate and courageous defense of victims of evil and misfortune. During World War II, as a teenager, she was a liaison agent in the French Resistance and cared for the wounded in the underground in Burgundy. At the Liberation she was decorated with the Medaille de la Resistance. Mme. Mitterand created a Foundation: France-Libertes, in support of the poor, the uneducated and the helpless, with special attention to the education of the young.

The Humanitarian Award Dinner was held at The Library & Museum of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. Participants in the program included Odetta and the Metropolitan String Ensemble, as well as Jose Ferrer, George Hearn, Liv Ullman and Joseph Wiseman, who performed a scene from Elie Wiesel’s “The Trial of God.”