“It’s Our Responsibility To Keep Educating And Elevating Our Understanding Of One Another”

As she moves from A+E to Vice Media, ADL Honoree Nancy Dubuc takes along her commitment to make TV that enlightens as well as entertains

Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images courtesy of the ADL

Nancy Dubuc In A Time Of Monumental Change, Disruption, Fear

Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images

As she accepted an award from the Anti-Defamation League for her advocacy in promoting equality and justice, Nancy Dubuc spoke of the great challenges facing our world, as well television and her own career which is at a life-changing crossroads.

Dubuc spoke about her sense of responsibility as she was honored at the ADL’s annual entertainment industry dinner, which raised over $500,000 to support efforts to combat anti-Semitism, racism, extremism, terrorism, bigotry, hate crimes, cyber-bullying and more (all at record levels in the era of Trump).

“I have to believe the hate rhetoric is at a fever pitch because things are changing and people are grasping and are scared of this change,” said Dubuc. “It’s our responsibility to keep educating and elevating our understanding of one another around the world.”

That is exactly what Dubuc was doing for the past 15 years, as she rose to chief executive officer of A+E Networks, which includes Lifetime, History Channel and more.

She is at a crossroads because she recently quit A+E to head the much younger and edgier Vice Media, which produces series, shows, specials and documentaries driven by topical and pressing news events around the world.

She feels both jobs share “the responsibility of being let into people’s homes” with programming.

“Entertainment is an incredibly powerful platform in our country’s culture and media is increasingly part of the story,” said Dubuc.

“There’s no question we are living in a time of monumental change, disruption, fear,” she added, “but also opportunity if we choose to see it that way.”

She used her power to not only grow A+E, but as a way to reach, teach, inform and entertain with shows like the “Shine A Light” concert, the documentary “Divided States,” “Born This Way” and programs addressing the pay parity issue on Lifetime.

Many of these shows address issues that are at the heart of what the ADL does, notes

Amanda Susskind, ADL Pacific Southwest Regional Director: “Nancy has used her entertainment platform to celebrate diversity while empowering women and minorities to speak up against bias and racial inequality. She is on the front lines, fighting the good fight.”

A+E partnered with the ADL on the hard-hitting documentary series “Divided States,” which provides an in-depth look at racial tensions and hate crimes in communities in the U.S. and Europe, and shows how some issues are being addressed.

Ben Silverman

Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images

One of the people who introduced Dubuc to the ADL is Ben Silverman, the former president of entertainment at NBC, who is now a top producer in Hollywood, where his award-winning credits include “The Office,” “Jane The Virgin” and “Ugly Betty.”

Silverman is now Chairman and Co-CEO of Propagate Entertainment, along with Howard Owens. He also finds time to be Chairman of the ADL’s National Entertainment Advisory Council.

“The ADL is a champion of justice and shines a light where there isn’t justice,” said Silverman at the dinner, “and does it by defending those who can’t defend themselves.”

Turning to the glittering Hollywood industry crowd, Silverman said he realizes how hard it can be at times to connect to the oppressed while “living in the gilded palaces that we get to live in in Los Angeles, New York and beyond, but ADL constantly reminds me we have to fight and champion those who are underserved.”

Turning to Dubuc, he added that he has seen her “door by door, show by show, audience by audience, champion in life the mission to tell stories of those who are underserved, stories of those who are oppressed.”

He also thanked her for accompanying him on a trip to explore Israel, which Dubuc referenced in her acceptance, drawing a laugh as she thanked Silverman for what he does.

“When I say we’ve been to the wall together,” said Dubuc, referring to visiting the legendary Wailing Wall in Jerusalem with Silverman, “I’m not talking about the NBC show.”

She said to Silverman, “You have helped open my eyes to the complexities and the curiosities of this remarkable place in the world and I want to thank you for that.”

Silverman predicted Dubuc will make an even greater impact in her new job.

“I think Vice has an even larger platform to push forward,” he said, “and with no legacy to protect, she has the ability to really shine a light on those who are underserved and oppressed.”

Shiri Appleby

Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Dubuc’s award was presented by actress Shiri Appleby, whom Dubuc cast in “UnReal,” now in its third season on Lifetime. Dubuc has become a mentor to the actress.

Appleby recalled telling Dubuc that she wanted to learn how to tell stories that “move me about issues.”

“I really wanted to learn how to be a leader and to have a voice,” she recalled, “and Nancy invited me to come to New York and shadow her and she really took time to teach me.”

Her support, added Appleby, “has led me to have my first overall deal at A+E Networks.”

“There is an urgency to our times right now,” said Appleby, “and sadly a growing divide, where emotions are high and tolerance is low. Now more than ever the work ADL is doing is crucial.”

“Having committed leaders from all areas of our society is vital,” continued Appleby, “and Nancy has used her influence, power and platform to bring out the best in us.”

What Appleby was referencing, and many others also alluded to at the dinner, is the atmosphere in America under the Trump presidency that has given license to the worst instincts among nationalists, racist, sexists, homophobes and others among what Secretary Hillary Clinton once called, “the deplorable.”

Rob Morrow

Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images

“Billions” star Rob Morrow, who acted as M.C. for the evening, set the tone when he asked the audience, “Do you guys have anxiety because of the venom that is coming out of the White House?” and then led the audience in a kind of primal scream to exorcise some of the demons they felt.

Ivy Kagan Bierman, the Regional Board Chair of ADL, talked about how that “venom” has impacted the organization and society.

Bierman cited ADL research that showed a 57 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents in 2017 compared to 2016 – the largest single year increase on record, second largest since the group began tracking it in 1979.

“This was especially apparent in K through 12 schools and on college campuses,” said Bierman, “where anti-Semitic incidents nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017.”

She said she saw it in her own life when her college-age son posted a picture on Facebook of one of his Jewish friends with Swastika painted on his door.

She said he remarked on Facebook, “if you think this ignorance and hatred isn’t all around you, think again.”

“We’ve been really busy lately, since around the middle of 2016,” said Amanda Susskind, the ADL’s Regional Director on the West Coast. “The hate rhetoric on television and in the public square, on campuses, has reached a fever pitch, and hate mongering has been normalized at the highest levels.”

L to R: Amanda Susskind, Rob Morrow, Nancy Dubuc, and Ivy Kagan Bierman

Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images

Bierman said that the ADL has risen to the challenge, creating a center on technology in Silicon Valley and a new center on extremism to expand the ADL’s ability and reach, among other efforts.

Dubuc ended her remarks with a call for action that spoke to the ADL's sense of commitment: “Get up, stand up and don’t give up the fight.”

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