Obamas Among the Night's Stars

Star-studded performance celebrates fight for freedom

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty

    President Barack Obama and the First Lady  had a night of medals and music.

    The Obama's attended this year's star-studded Ford's Theatre Society gala. Mrs. Obama was the honorary chair of the 2010 gala. The night began at the  Washington Theater with a reception hosted by the White House. The gala, however, boasted "big name" performances by celebrities including singer Kelly Clarkson, Lionel Richie, comedian George Lopez and actor Dick Van Dyke. Ty Burrell of ABC's "Modern Family" was the host. The show was taped for a July 2 broadcast on ABC called "America Celebrates July 4th at Ford's Theatre."

    President Obama will honored two South African human rights activists. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and South African Constitutional Court Justice Albie Sachs both received Ford's Theatre Lincoln Medals.

    Tutu founded a peace center called The Desmond Tutu Peace Centre.  The organization promotes a culture of peace throughout the world, according to the website. The Dalai Lama is posted as one of the honorary chairmen.

    "As a lawyer fighting for the rights of black South Africans in the age of apartheid, Albie Sachs was thrown in jail without charge and was nearly killed," Obama said while honoring the activists at the gala. "And then there is Archbishop Desmond Tutu ... He has become a symbol of kindness and hope far beyond the borders of his native land."

    Maya Angelou presented the Lincoln Medal to Tutu, who pointed out that the year before, Obama had presented him with the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

    As for Sachs, much of his life's work has involved fighting repressive laws both legally and personally. According to the Constitutional Court of South Africa, when Sachs was in his 20s he was placed in solitary confinement, without trial, for his human rights advocacy. He later went into exile. Then in 1966, he was injured by a car bomb reportedly placed by South African security agents. He lost his arm and sight in one eye as a result of the blast.