Triumphant: Sean Combs, George Lucas and Ingrid Saunders Jones

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The Reverend Al. Sharpton often speaks glowingly of the late James Brown, the legend, for becoming the father he never knew and a mentor.

Now Sharpton, president of the National Action Network and host of his own MSNBC show has been returning the favor. On Tuesday evening as he was being honored with a Triumph Award at NAN's 3rd annual event Sean Diddy Combs told a full-house at Lincoln Center's Rose Theater about how Rev. Sharpton has helped him mature.

Also honored at the event were Ingrid Saunders Jones, Chair of The Coca-Cola Foundation and legendary producer George Lucas of Star Wars fame and recently of Red Tails, the story of the Tuskegee Airmen.

Combs, in a humble delivery, said he used to call Sharpton for advice whenever there was some trouble. But in recent years, Combs said, he's been calling Sharpton simply to find out what the NAN President was up to and what projects he could support by marshaling financial resources or getting people in the entertainment industry involved.

Combs mentioned Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Clarence Avon, and Quincy Jones, among Black leaders who inspired him. He said he valued the award even more so because he had not actively sought after it in the same manner he'd wanted a Grammy for example.

"When you get an award of this magnitude by such a prestigious organization you ask yourself, are you truly worthy of this award?" Combs said. "And for me, I had to be honest with myself. I had to honestly look at those have come before me and the responsibility that they’ve taken on, have took on, and honestly spawning me and a generation of young people like me to just feel like the things we were able to do, we were able to do it just through the hip-hip spirit and the hip-hop culture."

Combs said Sharpton had showed him "how to be a man" and that while it may have taken time for him to grow up, "better later than never." He said he also wanted to be involved in more worthy causes. "To whom much is given, much is expected," he said.

Standing right next to Sharpton, who was dressed in a sharp suit that evening, Combs brought the house down when he quipped: "Reverend Sharpton deserves a great round of applause not only for what he does in the community but the way he's carrying that suit."

"You know him as a celebrity; I know him as someone cerebral," Rev. Sharpton said, of Combs, whom he praised for his genius and tenacity in coming from a single parent home in Mt. Vernon, being involved in the growth of the hiphop industry and building an empire that now includes clothing, jewelry, fragrances, beverages, cinema, and television, in addition to music.

Sharpton joked that Combs was the only person he allowed to call him "pops."

He praised Combs's record in the corporate world as offering inspiration to other young men from disadvantaged background who would not realize that they too can strive to succeed.

He also commended Combs for his pioneering role in mobilizing young voters through Citizens Change and his philanthropic work. Combs has a foundation called Daddy House. "He has not made hits," Sharpton said, of Combs, "he is the hit."

Also honored were Ingrid Saunders Jones, Chair of The Coca-Cola Foundation, who received the Triumph Corporate Award -- hers was presented by Marva Smalls from Nickelodeon.

Sharpton praised George Lucas who used millions of dollars of his own money when Hollywood wouldn't finance the project. "Any book that is written about Hollywood would not be complete without George Lucas," Sharpton said, in remarks before Lucas was honored. Samuel L. Jackson, who was also in Star Wars, presented Lucas' award.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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