Spielberg and the USC Shoah Foundation presented Clooney with its Ambassador for Humanity Award Thursday night at New York's Museum of Natural History. Also on hand to praise Clooney were his co-star in the new movie "Gravity," Sandra Bullock, and Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show."
The director called Clooney a "humble humanitarian" and "an unparalleled example of action over apathy." Spielberg praised Clooney especially for the work in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Clooney told the crowd of donors that "Our job is to make it hard for the bad guys to do what they're doing, and for the good guys to ignore it."
He also praised Spielberg for his foundation's work in creating and preserving video testimonies of Holocaust victims for future generations to learn from.
The event marked the 20th anniversary of Spielberg's Holocaust movie "Schindler's List," a film that won the director an Oscar and, Spielberg says, gave him the idea to start a foundation that would record interviews with Holocaust survivors.
The foundation, which was founded in 1994 and based since 2006 at the University of Southern California, has collected nearly 52,000 eyewitness testimonies on video, in what it calls the largest digital collection of its kind in the world.
In an interview before the gala, the director said that a new, broader phase of the foundation's work involves collecting video testimonies from survivors of genocide in places like Rwanda, Cambodia and Armenia.
Spielberg said the only obstacle to further broadening the foundation's work is funding, and the group announced during the evening that the gala had raised close to $3.7 million.
Also during the interview, the director said a further goal is to get the country's public school systems to teach tolerance education. The director said his foundation is working on getting materials to schools to be used in social science classes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.