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Storm Troopers, Wookies, and Star Wars fans gathered to watch actress Carrie Fisher receive the Humanist Hub's Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism in Memorial Church on Monday evening.
A standing ovation and the “Imperial March” greeted Fisher as she accepted the award. She addressed the full church with jokes and Star Wars quotations, along with remarks on mental illness, therapy, celebrity, body image, and religion.
Speaking of her experience as someone with bipolar disorder, Fisher said, “What is vital is having a community. If you can find some people who have the same thing you do, it can be a lot easier than wandering around alone.”
The Humanist Hub founded the annual award in 2007, with Salman Rushdie as their first recipient. Other honorees have included Seth MacFarlane, Stephen Fry, and Mythbuster’s Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman.
The Hub’s Program Director Sarah J. Chandonnet said the Hub works with the students of the Harvard Community of Humanists, Atheists, and Agnostics each year to nominate a candidate for the award.
Chandonnet said the humanist groups chose Fisher because of her openness about agnosticism and mental illness. Fisher has talked about her own experiences with drug addiction, bipolar disorder, and religion both onscreen and in her published writings.
“We think it is very important that she is in Star Wars, but I think what’s more important is the way that she has used her celebrity to talk about values and to talk about things that are hard,” Chandonnet said. “[The award is] for people who have used their celebrity to uphold the values that the Humanist Hub represents.”
Fisher also fielded questions from audience members on a variety of topics, which included her work on the Star Wars films, mental illness treatment, and acting.
Addressing her honesty about her experience with bipolar disorder, Fisher said, “I would rather have my version of mental illness than anyone else’s.”
Attendees expressed excitement about the event and Fisher’s humorous approach to traditionally stigmatized topics.
“I’m a huge fan. I really wanted to see Carrie Fisher because she’s such an advocate for mental health,” Elsie A. Tellier ’19 said.
Other audience members enjoyed Fisher’s bluntness and comedy.
“It was really refreshing to have someone speak so candidly and humorously about real life,” HCHAA member August E. Stover ’18 said.
Originally established in 1974 as the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard, the Humanist Hub is an organization serving local humanists, agnostics, and atheists. In addition to this award, the Hub coordinates speaker series, discussion groups, and the popular Harry Potter as a Sacred Text reading group.
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