2020 PEN America Gala Banner

The 2020 PEN America Virtual Gala merged our annual New York Literary Gala and Los Angeles LitFest Gala into one national, virtual celebration on December 8. Our digital program represented a crucial moment for our community to stand together in recognition of our deserving honorees and to fortify our mission at a time of extraordinary needs and demands. The fight for creative expression is so important, now more than ever, and thousands tuned in for a unique, one-night-only event to toast to human rights and the power of words.

Featured Patti Smith, Darnella Frazier, Marie Yovanovitch, Frank Bennack Jr., Spike Lee, Bono, Emma Thompson, Madeleine Albright, and former U.S. President Barack Obama.

Rewatch the 2020 PEN America Virtual Gala

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100% of every dollar raised goes directly to support PEN America’s mission: to celebrate free expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. For more information, contact Caelan at [email protected].

DOWNLOAD THE VIRTUAL GALA JOURNAL

Barack Obama and the Freedom to Write

As part of the ceremony, President Barack Obama sat down for an interview with former PEN America president and Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Ron Chernow.

2020 Honorees

Barack Obama, Voice of Influence Award

Barack Obama, Voice of Influence Award

Obama served as the 44th president of the United States...
Frank A. Bennack Jr., Corporate Honoree

Frank A. Bennack Jr., Corporate Honoree

Bennack Jr. is executive vice chairman of Hearst, one of the nation’s largest private companies. . .
Patti Smith, PEN/Audible Literary Service Award

Patti Smith, PEN/Audible Literary Service Award

Smith is a writer, performer, and visual artist. She gained recognition in the 1970s for her revolutionary merging of poetry and rock. . .
Xu Zhiyong, PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award

Xu Zhiyong, PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award

Xu, an established organizer and lawyer, has been an integral member of China’s most important civil rights movements over the last 20 years. . .
Marie Yovanovitch, PEN/Benenson Courage Award

Marie Yovanovitch, PEN/Benenson Courage Award

Yovanovitch is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. A career member of the Senior Foreign Service. . .
Darnella Frazier, PEN/Benenson Courage Award

Darnella Frazier, PEN/Benenson Courage Award

Frazier is the quick-thinking and dauntless young woman who filmed the murder of George Floyd.

Presenters

Madeleine Albright

Madeleine Albright

Joan Baez

Joan Baez

Bono

Bono

Ron Chernow

Ron Chernow

Steven J. Corwin

Steven J. Corwin

Spike Lee

Spike Lee

Soledad O’Brien

Soledad O’Brien

Steve Swartz

Steve Swartz

Emma Thompson

Emma Thompson

Host

Franklin Leonard headshot

Franklin Leonard
Film executive, founder of The Black List, and PEN America Trustee

Sponsors

DIAMOND
Hearst logoNew York-Presbyterian logoJamie Wolf

GOLD
Penguin Random House • Frank A. Bennack Jr

AWARD UNDERWRITERS
Audible, Inc. • Pamela and Peter Barbey • Lawrence B. and Elyse Benenson

LEADERSHIP
Roxanne Donovan and Tom Scarangello • Facebook • Elizabeth Hemmerdinger and Alix L.L. Ritchie • Margaret Munzer Loeb • The Muriel Pollia Foundation • Anya Salama and Albert I. Salama • Andrew Solomon and John Habich Solomon • Tishman Speyer

BENEFACTOR
Arnold & Porter • Colette and Daniel Bennett • Kimberly Blank • Jill Braufman and Daniel Nir • Murat and Beth Bugdaycay • John Chao • Bridget Colman • Discovery, Inc. • Embrey Family Foundation • Sarah, Sheree, and Jerry Friedman • Google • Hachette Book Group • Robie Harris • Tracy Higgins and James Leitner • Holly Peterson Foundation • Zachary Karabell • Sean and Mary Kelly • Latham & Watkins • Sandra Leong • Jay McInerney • Alexandra Munroe • The Moore Charitable Foundation • The New York Times • Gwyneth Paltrow and Brad Falchuk •  Aidan Donnelley Rowley • Marvin & Keri Putnam • Seedlings Foundation • Katrina vanden Heuvel •  Suzy Wahba 

PATRON
Mila Atmos • Leslie Belzberg • Amanda Bennett • Ted and Helen Boutrous • Abigail E. Disney • Jeanmarie and William Fenrich • Patricia Fili-Krushel • Miranda Heller • Elizabeth R. Koch • Macmillan Publishers • The Marc Haas Foundation • Evangeline Morphos • The New Yorker • Katia and Christian Oberbeck • Kaye Family Foundation • ReaderLink • Rosenthal Family Foundation • Chip Rosenbloom • Nancy Rubin • Simon & Schuster • Sydney and Stanley S. Shuman • WarnerMedia • Waterman Interests, LLC

FRIEND
ABS Partners Real Estate • Alec and Hilaria Baldwin • American Foreign Service Association • Judy and Russ Carson • Agnes Gund • HarperCollins • Ellen and Tom Hoberman • Tom Healy and Fred P. Hochberg • Iger Bay Foundation • Chip and Sheryl Kaye • Edward Tyler Nahem and Tanya Minhas-Nahem • Los Angeles Review of Books • Mack Real Estate Group • Maria Pallante • Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation • Robert Perrin • Other Press • Donna and Benjamin Rosen • Stephen M. Ross • Scholastic, Inc. • Nicole A. Tetreault, PhD and Taylor English Duma LLP • TIME Magazine • Ann Ziff  

Gala Committee Co-Chairs
Markus Dohle • Roxanne Donovan • Sean Kelly • Anya Salama • Jamie Wolf

Gala Committee
Dennis Abboud • Mila Atmos • Pamela and Peter Barbey • Elyse and Lawrence B. Benenson • Colette and Daniel Bennett • Kimberly Morgan Blank • Jennifer Finney Boylan • Beth Bugdaycay • Bridget Colman • Aidan Donnelley Rowley • Patricia Duff • Jeanmarie Fenrich • Sheree and Jerry Friedman • Judith Greenberg • Miranda Heller • Elizabeth Hemmerdinger • Tracy Higgins • Zachary Karabell • Cindi Leive • Sandra Leong • Margaret Munzer Loeb • Yvonne Marsh • Jay McInerney • Alexandra Munroe •
Claire Paull • Holly Peterson • Michael Pietsch • Marvin Putnam • Theresa Rebeck • Alix L.L. Ritchie • Andrew Solomon • Katrina vanden Heuvel • Suzy Wahba • Jamie Wolf

Join us for the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony at 7pm ET/4pm PT!

Hosted by off-Broadway phenomenon Kara Young, the ceremony will include the live announcement of our book awards winners; the presentation of PEN America’s career achievement awards; and special guest presenters, including Lydia Davis, Jeremy O. Harris, Laurie Anderson, and Ruben Santiago-Hudson.

RESERVE TICKETS