Sotomayor, Spielberg win Harvard Du Bois medals

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and director and producer
Steven Spielberg were among six people Wednesday to receive Harvard
University’s highest honor in the field of African and
African-American studies.

Harvard honored its W.E.B. Du Bois medal winners at a ceremony
Wednesday. The medals have been awarded since 2000.

The Hutchins Center for African and African-American Research,
which presents the medals, credited Sotomayor with being the first
Latina to serve on the high court and for speaking frequently of
her upbringing, helping to influence and inspire children trying to
succeed in the face of adversity.

Sotomayor said she was ”deeply humbled” by the award.

”I am always reminded and continue to remember that I never
stand alone because I do stand on the shoulders … of so many
people in this room and everyone who preceded me to open the door
of opportunity,” Sotomayor said. ”I try to remember that paying
forward is an obligation that I must not only undertake but that
gives meaning to all our lives.”

The center cited Spielberg not only for his many filmmaking
accomplishments but also for his establishment of a foundation to
record oral histories of those who survived the Holocaust and other
genocides. Those include the Righteous Persons Foundation which
provides grants to promote cooperation and cross-cultural
understanding among ethnically and religiously diverse groups
across America.

Spielberg, whose movie credits include ”Lincoln” and
”Amistad,” based on the 1839 mutiny of newly captured slaves,
called the award ”an incredible honor.”

”This is a laurel upon which I promise not to rest but instead
to keep moving uphill because nothing gets done unless we’re all
going uphill,” Spielberg said. ”When we get to the top maybe I’ll
look down and say, well I earned it then.”

The medals were also given to senior presidential adviser
Valerie Jarrett, playwright Tony Kushner, Georgia civil rights
activist and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, and NBA Commissioner David
Stern.

Jarrett and Lewis were unable to attend the ceremony in
Harvard’s Memorial Hall.

Among those presenting the awards were Massachusetts Gov. Deval
Patrick and former Boston Celtics great Bill Russell.