We're a nation obsessed with superlatives, especially when it comes to media and entertainment. Movies are judged by box office and how many Oscars they receive. For TV, it's ratings and Emmys, and books are ranked by the best-seller lists of The New York Times and Amazon.
It's business, of course. Writers, producers and directors need to make a living, so sales are important. But there's a prestigious award that for 58 years has not been about being the biggest or selling the most. It's the Christopher Awards, which are being celebrated this evening here in New York.
I've been working with The Christophers, a non-profit group, for several years, handling PR for their awards program. There's no red carpet. There aren't always big celebrity names attending. It usually doesn't make Entertainment Tonight (not that I don't try).
The Christopher Awards are about content, not glamour and glitz. They recognize screenwriters, producers, directors, authors and illustrators whose work in film, TV and cable, and books gets across a message we too often forget -- that each of us can make a difference in this world.
Some of this year's winners you've heard of -- films like Akeelah and the Bee and Miss Potter. Others are smaller films that haven't enjoyed wide distribution -- Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, the story on an anti-Nazi activist in WWII Germany, or Water, which sheds light on an ancient Hindu tradition in India of requiring widows to live out their lives as social outcasts.
None of the books have been on the best-seller lists, yet they'll open your eyes to true-life tales of courage in the face of racial prejudice in the South, ethnic cleansing in Rwanda, or friendship in the midst of hatred and political tension between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East.
I always enjoy the Christopher Awards ceremony, which is elegantly low-key. Presenters in recent years have included Charles Osgood, Cokie Roberts, James Earl Jones and Jacques d'Amboise. But it's not about celebrity. Everyone walks away from the evening feeling good. It makes us realize there's lots of good out there and reason to be hopeful.
It's a good balance to the headlines we'll see on the 11 o'clock news when we get home.