LOS ANGELES – On Monday, May 19, 2003, at 6:00 P.M., the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California will host its annual Torch of Liberty Awards Dinner at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. The event honors individuals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of civil liberties.
This year’s event will honor Van Toffler, President of MTV/MTV2 and filmmakers Naomi Foner-Gyllenhaal and Stephen Gyllenhaal along with their children, actor/activists Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jake Gyllenhaal.
As President of MTV and MTV2, Van Toffler has had a tremendous role in increasing awareness of civil liberties and social justice issues among a new generation of American youth and youth throughout the world. Music Television’s cutting edge programming tackles important issues facing today’s youth, such as race relations, LGBT issues, interracial dating, HIV-AIDS, and other issues. The network has produced quality political and socially oriented programs, including the “Choose or Lose” voter registration bus tour, which dramatically increased voter participation among young voters, and the “Free Your Mind” campaign, which fostered an understanding of cultural and ethnic diversity. MTV’s concert special on World AIDS Day featured performances by popular artists in Cape Town, South Africa and Seattle, and an auction was held to benefit LIFEbeat, a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of AIDS. In addition, MTV hosted an international discussion with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. Young people around the world — including India, Italy and the Middle East — asked questions regarding world issues and events affecting us all. Toffler is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and has a great understanding of the constitutional guarantees that form the foundation of our democracy and the need for their constant defense. The ACLU Foundation of Southern California is proud to salute Van Toffler for his dedication to social justice and exposing the ideals of “liberty and justice for all” to a new generation.
The ACLU/SC believes that Naomi Foner-Gyllenhaal and Stephen Gyllenhaal have set an incredible example for their children, Maggie and Jake, with their strong support of the ACLU and countless other political organizations. This family is demonstrating what it means to pass the “torch of liberty” from one generation to the next, and we honor them as a family that embodies true American family values. The family’s activism has been manifested in so many ways over the years that what is provided here is just a sampling. Before Maggie and Jake were born, Naomi was educating and empowering a huge audience of children through her involvement in the shows Sesame Street, The Electric Company and 3-2-1 Contact, teaching a new generation to see differences in skin color and gender as pluses, not minuses. Maggie’s interest in Central American issues was encouraged when her parents helped her make a documentary on the subject, and Jake is an outspoken proponent of the film industry’s responsibility in addressing political issues. In Losing Isaiah, Naomi and Stephen’s film about a drug addicted mother’s struggle to keep her child, the issues of women’s rights, children’s rights, racial justice and the rights of the poor are explored in depth. Stephen has also directed projects with important criminal justice issues, including Robber Homicide Division, The Shield, The Warden, and Homicide: Life on the Street. This is a family that understands the important role films can play in exposing audiences to messages that build support for the principles of liberty and justice. The ACLU Foundation of Southern California is proud to honor the Foner/Gyllenhaal family for making activism a family affair.
“The Torch of Liberty Award was created to acknowledge the contributions made by individuals from the media and arts & entertainment industry whose creative and sometimes daring work affirms the democratic principles that underlie the promise of ‘liberty and justice for all,’” said Ramona Ripston, executive director of the ACLU/SC. “This year’s honorees truly exemplify the spirit of the award. The work of Van Toffler and the Foner/Gyllenhaal family has had an immeasurable impact on civil liberties in this country and beyond.”
Also planning to attend the event are: Christopher Guest, Danny Goldberg, Robert Greenwald, Rosalie Swedlin, Robert Cort, Barry Hirsch, Dennis Lavinthal, and Larry Flynt.
The event takes place Monday, May 19, 2003 at 6:00 p.m., and will be held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, 9876 Wilshire Blvd. Tickets start at $300, and all proceeds contribute to the ACLU’s watchdog efforts. For additional ticket information call toll free: 877/225-8487.
Journalists interested in covering the event should contact the ACLU/SC Media Relations office at 213/977-9500 x.252.