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Bill Clinton Praises Ukrainian Protesters During Hollywood Charity Event

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BILL CLINTON
File photo of Bill Clinton. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

CULVER CITY, Calif. -- Former President Bill Clinton continued to voice support for the non-violent Ukrainian protesters at a Hollywood charity awards ceremony on Thursday, linking their peaceful actions to the theme of the evening: "unite4:humanity."

"When the Ukrainians stormed into that presidential residence, nobody took a painting. Nobody destroyed a statue," said Clinton, praising them for peacefully seizing the luxury estate of Ukraine's now-former president and guarding the property against vandalism and looting. "The only thing they did with anything that wasn't theirs was to take some of the golf balls out and hit them onto the golf course."

"The fact that it was a peaceful revolution in the face of 100 people, at least, being gunned down in the street," continued the former president. "It's profoundly moving -- but it's what happens next that matters. Will they unite for humanity?"

Clinton delivered his remarks to a star-studded audience upon receiving the unity recognition award, given to him by the foundation unite4:good at their inaugural awards ceremony celebrating acts of service and charity from around the world.

The awards, a grand affair for the recently launched foundation, were held in a sumptuously converted soundstage on the Sony Pictures Studios lot in Culver City and included performances by singers Demi Lovato and Alicia Keys.

unite4 humanity

Alicia Keys performs on stage at unite4:good and Variety's unite4:humanity at Sony Pictures Studios on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, in Culver City, Calif. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Invision for Bright Future International/AP Images)

The foundation also honored Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Selena Gomez, as well as Lovato and Keys, for their work in various charities and initiatives. Presenters included Forest Whitaker, Sean Penn, Eva Longoria, Wilmer Valderrama and Jada Pinkett Smith.

As the ceremony's first presenter, actress and activist Jane Fonda set the tone for the evening by saying that celebrities had a responsibility to use their star power for good.

"Service should be thought of as the rent we pay for life," said Fonda, and in that vein several of the celebrities who received awards seemed uncomfortable taking the spotlight for their activism.

unite4humanity

From left, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Cheryl Hines and Jane Fonda attend unite4:good and Variety's unite4:humanity at Sony Pictures Studios on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, in Culver City, Calif. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Invision for Bright Future International/AP Images)

"You've made a huge mistake giving me this," said De Niro after Penn presented him with the creative commitment in film award. "It would have made a lot more sense if I were here presenting it to Sean Penn -- there's no one I know who walks the philanthropic walk more than Sean."

Host Andy Samberg was similarly hesitant to bask in the spotlight, as evidenced by his two-word acceptance speech: "Thank you." The brief speech belied the big plans he has for the prize money, an undisclosed amount funded by Johnnie Walker Scotch Whisky -- it is all going to the Berkeley Unified School District's special education program, where his mother taught for 25 years.

"I don't think former presidents should get awards of any kind," said Clinton at one point.

But the event wasn't simply a celebration of Hollywood celebrities. The awards also recognized people like David Schwartz, the founder of Real Food Challenge, a sustainable food activist network. Schwartz was one of five non-profit leaders on stage that night who was awarded $25,000 for their full-time advocacy work.

"A grant like this means a lot," said Schwartz to The Huffington Post. "It's helping us mobilize, inspire and challenge a new generation of sustainable food advocates." Schwartz was also humbled and inspired by the celebrities who were honored that night.

"[Bill] Clinton blew me away, Selena Gomez blew me away, Alicia Keys blew me away," said Schwartz. "These are people who are really committed to real justice in this world."

In addition to Schwartz, Kathy Eldon of Creative Visions Productions, Dr. Flint Fowler of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis and Jane Hoffman of the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals also received $25,000 each. Cherie Jamason of the Food Bank of Northern Nevada was awarded a $50,000 Impact grant.

The event was a collaboration by unite4:good, a foundation that funds charities around the world, and Variety, a weekly entertainment trade magazine.

unite4 humanity

Demi Lovato, left, and Selena Gomez attend unite4:good and Variety's unite4:humanity at Sony Pictures Studios on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, in Culver City, Calif. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision for Bright Future International/AP Images)

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Andy Samberg had won $25,000. We regret the error.

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