The Common Good American Spirit Awards, June 2, 2014

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2014 American Spirit Awards

Monday, June 2, 2014
6pm-8pmMonday, June 2 we are thrilled to host our second annual American Spirit Awards.  This elegant evening will honor several deserving individuals who have made a notable contribution to our great country in the past year.

The Common Good 2014 American Spirit Awards: This dynamic evening will feature extraordinary individuals who have gone above and beyond to participate in our demoncracy and help change the world we live in for the better. To sign up early or for more information, on the 2014 American Spirit Awards please call 212.599.7040.


12 Years a SlaveActivism In The Arts:  Arnon Milchan, respected and prolific film producer, for his part in bringing the critically acclaimed “12 Years a Slave” to the screen.  The film provides an honest and unflinching portrayal of the ugly truth about slavery in America and has helped reinvigorate discussion of human dignity and equality in our country.  Milchan, Chairman of New Regency Productions, has made many films that have garnered both critical and commercial success, including Noah, Pretty Woman, Once Upon a Time in America, JFK, Mr. & Mrs. SmithNatural Born Killers, Fight Club, War of the Roses, A Time to KillUnder Siege, Love & Other Drugs.

Respect rallyCitizen Activism:   Jose Antonio Vargas, a leading activist on the issue of immigration reform and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, for his efforts to show the face of immigrants as hard-working, responsible and very American—even without the proper paperwork.  Vargas won a Pulitzer for his reporting on the Virginia Tech shootings, but soon after, he bravely chose to reveal his own status as an undocumented immigrant, risking deportation to help put a human face on immigration reform.  Vargas has since established his non-profit Define American and has been featured on the cover of Time Magazine.

Milchan Square


ARNON MILCHAN (Executive Producer) is widely renowned as one of the most prolific and successful independent film producers of the past 25 years, with over 100 feature films to his credit.  Born in Israel, Milchan was educated at the University of Geneva.  His first business venture was transforming his father’s modest business into one of his country’s largest agro-chemical companies.  This early achievement was a harbinger of Milchan’s now-legendary reputation in the international marketplace as a keen businessman.

Soon, Milchan began to underwrite projects in areas that had always held a special interest for him – film, television and theater.  Early projects include Roman Polanski’s theater production of “Amadeus,” “Dizengoff 99,” “La Menace,” “The Medusa Touch” and the mini-series “Masada.”  By the end of the 1980s, Milchan had produced such films as Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in America” and Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil.”

After the huge successes of “Pretty Woman” and “The War of the Roses,” Milchan founded New Regency Productions and went on to produce a string of successful films including “J.F.K,” “Sommersby,” “A Time to Kill,” “Free Willy,” “The Client,” “Tin Cup,” “Under Siege,” “L.A. Confidential,” “The Devil’s Advocate,” “The Negotiator,” “City of Angels,” “Entrapment,” “Fight Club,” “Big Momma’s House,” “Don’t Say a Word,” “Daredevil,” “Man on Fire,” “Guess Who,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” “Big Momma’s House 2,” “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” “The Fountain,” “Mirrors,” “Jumper,” “What Happens in Vegas,” “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel,” “Love and Other Drugs,” “Big Momma’s House 3,” “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked,”  “In Time,.” the critically acclaimed “12 Years a Slave and  the epic” Noah directed by Darren Aronofsky, starring Russell Crowe.

Upcoming films include “True Story,” starring Jonah Hill and James Franco, “Gone Girl” directed by David Fincher and starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, “Birdman” directed by Alejandro Inarritu, starring Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Andrea Riseborough and Ed Norton , and “Pyongyang,” directed by Gore Verbinski.

Along the way, Milchan brought on board two powerful investors and partners who share his vision: Nine Network and Twentieth Century Fox.  Fox distributes Regency movies in all media worldwide, except in international pay and free television where Milchan has taken advantage of the growing television and new media marketplace. Milchan also successfully diversified his company’s activities within the sphere of entertainment, most specifically in the realm of television through Regency Television (“Malcolm in the Middle,” “The Bernie Mac Show” and “Windfall”) and sports where the company was at one time the largest shareholder of PUMA, the worldwide athletic apparel and shoe conglomerate based in Germany, which was later sold after a successful re-branding of the brand in 2003.  In addition, Regency has acquired the worldwide television rights to Women’s Tennis Association Tournaments from 1999 through 2012 and has licensed  these  rights to  Pan European Broadcaster Eurosport  S.A. Regency owns a large stake in the Israeli Network, a television station brought to the United States via a satellite distribution agreement with Echostar and Regency also acquired a large stake in Channel 10, one of only two commercial broadcast stations in Israel.


Vargas SquareJose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, filmmaker, and the founder of Define American, a campaign that seeks to elevate the conversation around immigration.In June 2011, the New York Times Magazine published a groundbreaking essay he wrote in which he revealed and chronicled his life in America as an undocumented immigrant, stunning media and political circles and attracting worldwide coverage. A year later, he appeared on the cover of TIME magazine internationally with fellow undocumented immigrants as part of a follow-up cover story. Since then, he has testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration reform, and written and directed  Documented, a documentary film on his undocumented experience. It world premiered in June 2013 as the centerpiece of theAFIDOCS film festival in Washington, D.C.

He was a senior contributing editor at the Huffington Post, where he launched the Technology andCollege sections. Prior to that, he covered tech and video game culture, HIV/AIDS in the nation’s capital, and the 2008 presidential campaign for the Washington Post, and was part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize for covering the Virginia Tech massacre. In 2007, Politico named him one of 50 Politicos to Watch. His 2006 series on HIV/AIDS in Washington, D.C. inspired a feature-length documentary — The Other City — which he co-produced and wrote. It world premiered at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival and aired on Showtime. In 2010, he wrote an exclusive profile of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg for the New Yorker.

The media’s evolution, and the breakdown of barriers between print and broadcast journalism, has guided his nearly 13-year reporting career. He’s written for daily newspapers (Philadelphia Daily NewsSan Francisco Chronicle) and national magazines (The AtlanticRolling Stone) and has appeared on several national and international television and radio programs, including Nightline,The O’Reilly Factor, and The Colbert Report. On HuffPost, he created the blog Technology as Anthropology, which focuses on tech’s impact on people and how we behave.

He taught a class on “Storytelling 2.0” at Georgetown University and served on the advisory board for the Knight-Batten Award for Innovations in Journalism, housed at American University. A very proud alumnus of Mountain View High School (‘00) and San Francisco State University (‘04), he loves jazz, hip-hop and anything by Gershwin, and worships at the altars of Altman, Almodovar, Didion, Baldwin and Orwell.

He dreamed of one day living in Manhattan after he saw Woody Allen’s version of it. He currently resides in Manhattan.


Author and women’s equality activist, Lilly Ledbetter (formerly Lilly McDaniel) was born on April 18, 1938 in the small town of Possum Trot, Alabama, to J.C. McDaniel, a mechanic at Anniston Army Depot, and Edna Smith McDaniel, a homemaker. Growing up with a family that lived with no running water or electricity, as a young girl Lilly McDaniel worked on her grandfather’s nearby cotton farm.Confident and determined that she was destined for something greater, Lilly Ledbetter applied to Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in 1979 for the job of overnight supervisor. Once hired, she retained her 7pm-7am management-level position for nearly two decades.  As one of the first women to receive a job at the management level, Ledbetter was dedicated to her job despite ongoing sexual harassment and gender prejudice in the workplace.

Nineteen years after her first day at Goodyear, Lilly received an anonymous note revealing that she was making thousands less per year than the men in her position.  Devastated, she filed a sex discrimination case against Goodyear, which she won—and then heartbreakingly lost on appeal.

Over the next eight years, her case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, where she lost again: the court ruled that she should have filed suit within 180 days of her first unequal paycheck—despite the fact that she had no way of knowing that she was being paid unfairly all those years. In a dramatic moment, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read her dissent from the bench, urging Lilly to fight back.

And fight Lilly did, becoming the namesake of President Barack Obama’s first official piece of legislation as he began his first term. Today, she is a tireless advocate for change, traveling the country to urge women and minorities to claim their civil rights.

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