Amy Poehler, Halle Berry among honorees at Unite4:Humanity event

Amy Poehler speaks movingly of Harris Wittels' death

The event: Hollywood stars took center stage at the Beverly Hilton Hotel Thursday in recognition of their philanthropic pursuits. The pre-Oscar event was Unite4:Humanity, staged by Variety and the Unite4:Good Foundation -- an organization whose mission is to promote acts of kindness -- and presented by Alcatel OneTouch.

Honorees and their charities were Halle Berry (Jenesse Center), Josh Hutcherson (Straight But Not Narrow), Pink (No Kid Hungry), Amy Poehler (Worldwide Orphans), Ewan McGregor (UNICEF UK), Christina Applegate (Right Action for Women), Lauren Paul and Aaron Paul (Kind Campaign).

The program: Busy Philipps hosted, and Forest Whitaker opened the program, speaking of people’s connections and responsibilities to one another. He ended by quoting the Dalai Lama. “If you think you’re too small to make a difference,” Whitaker said, “try sleeping with a mosquito.”

To round out the night’s agenda of presentations, spotlights on notable causes and shout-outs to several community leaders, Pink performed two numbers against a video backdrop of soft rolling clouds. Her song choices: “Time After Time” and “Me and Bobby McGee.”

The crowd: There to present awards were Emily Blunt, Queen Latifah, Jeff Bridges, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, “Breaking Bad” producer Michelle MacLaren, Wilmer Valderrama and United4:Good founder Anthony Melikhov. Demi Lovato introduced Zendaya, recipient of the Young Luminary Award, while the audience included Sarah Hyland, William H. Macy, Frances Fisher, Beth Behrs, Michael Gladis and Jane Seymour.

Of note: Having learned earlier that day of the death of “Parks and Recreations” writer-producer Harris Wittels, Poehler said she hadn’t prepared her speech and expected to ramble. She also said she wouldn’t be telling jokes.

"Today, I lost a friend," she said. "I lost a dear, young man in my life who was struggling with addiction and died. Just a few hours before we came, Jane [Aronson of Worldwide Orphans] and I sat and talked about that and I'm sharing with you because life and death live so close together, and we walk that fine line every day. And at the end of the day, when things happen in our lives, we turn to people that we love and we look to our family and our community for support, and we lean on people, in a hope that they will ease our pain.”

She also reiterated two of the night’s recurring themes: “how we all feel spiritually connected,” and the importance of taking small steps, saying, “When something feels very big, too big to handle, just go very small. Just go real small. Look at the person next to you. Look in their eyes. Meet the person that sits next to you. Find out someone’s name. Change one person’s life. Make one call. Write one letter. Give one dollar. Whatever small thing feels like what you can do, it changes the course of the ship.”

And with a touch of her characteristic humor creeping back, she made reference to Whitaker’s quote from the Dalai Lama. “The Dalai Lama is so quotable,” she said. “He’s always right. The Dalai Lama just rules.”

 

Ellen Olivier is the founder of Society News LA. http://societynewsla.com

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