CNN Heroes: “In a Time of Uncertainty, It’s Reassuring to See Good People at Work in the World”

By Chris Ariens 

CNN’s Anderson Cooper with mother-daughter actors Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson.

They love LA.

In its second year, CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute moved to Hollywood from its inaugural location at New York’s Museum of Natural History. With performances from Alicia Keys and John Legend and a surprise performance by Christina Aguilera, Saturday’s show at the Kodak Theatre provided a star-studded location in which to honor everyday heroes. The event will air Thanksgiving night on CNN.


Host Anderson Cooper joked that he was going to hologram-in Larry King for a special appearance. (He didn’t). Medical Marvel hero David Puckett got a kiss from presenter Salma Hayak, then forgot his acceptance speech.

Liz McCartney was named Hero of the Year. She’ll receive $100,000 for her work helping survivors of Hurricane Katrina rebuild their homes.

Also spotted, Robert Duvall, Meg Ryan and Cameron Diaz, singer Taylor Swift and CSI New York star and Obama BFF Hill Harper.

Insiders tell us plans are already in the works for 2009 Heroes. The ability to draw on celebrity guests will most likely make Los Angeles the choice for location next year, too. After the jump, the memo sent this morning to the CNN staff from CNN Worldwide president Jim Walton.

November 24, 2008

To: CNN Staff
From: Jim Walton

We honored heroes again on Saturday night in Los Angeles. It was an evening of memorable people, stories and moments. You’ll see all of it and more when CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute airs Thanksgiving night.

I’ve been thinking about the Heroes franchise and why it is so successful in only its second year. The show is entertaining and well-produced, and the honorees and their stories are remarkable and inspiring. We’ve done a good job marketing and promoting it. And the CNN brand gives it prestige and legitimacy. But all of that together still doesn’t explain numbers like these: 4,000 Hero nominations from 75 countries. More than a million votes cast online for Hero of the Year. And 63 CNN and Turner Broadcasting MY HERO nominations in that program’s first year.

Why the overwhelming response? Here’s what I think: In a time of uncertainty, it’s reassuring to see good people at work in the world. And it’s gratifying to see the news organization people depend on to cover wars, politics and the economy also use its resources to tell their stories.

Congratulations and thank you to Sue Bunda and her team for turning an idea into a worldwide celebration of grace. And thank you to everyone at CNN and Turner who pitched in again to make CNN Heroes something we can all be proud of.

I hope you have a good Thanksgiving holiday and that you spend it in the company of your heroes, with people who appreciate the hero in you.