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Richard Gere Wins Humanitarian Award

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JOANN LOVIGLIO | November 13, 2007 01:30 AM EST | AP

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PHILADELPHIA — Richard Gere, who has donated time and money to the causes for Tibetan independence and HIV/AIDS care, on Monday accepted a prestigious humanitarian award given by the city of Philadelphia.

The actor was given the Marian Anderson Award, named after the black American opera singer who achieved international acclaim by the mid-1930s but faced racial segregation at home.

Gere, 58, accepted the honor and its $100,000 honorarium at a gala at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

"I'm not worthy of this award in any way whatsoever," Gere said. "I can't tell you how this makes me feel. My heart is so wide open."

Gere was lauded for taking on the dual role of artist and activist before it became fashionable, lending his fame and finances to global issues.

Gere, a Buddhist, has advocated Tibetan independence from Chinese rule since 1978. He co-founded the Tibet House and is board chairman of the International Campaign for Tibet.

He established Healing the Divide, a public charity for improving care for HIV/AIDS patients, and a philanthropic foundation bearing his name helps humanitarian organizations.

His three-decade film career includes "An Officer and A Gentleman," "Pretty Woman" and "Chicago," which won him a Golden Globe.

Anderson became the first black person to perform at the White House in 1939 and the first black soloist at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1955. She received the Medal of Freedom in 1963 and died in 1993 at age 96.

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On the Net:

Marian Anderson Award: http://www.marianandersonaward.org

The Gere Foundation: http://www.gerefoundation.org