Celebrity Activists Remind Us the Importance of Speaking Out for Those Who Can'tJoanna Mazewski
This morning after dropping off my daughter at school, I turned on the radio (because how many times can I listen to the Frozen soundtrack already? I mean, really). The DJs of my local Miami party station started discussing the sudden events surrounding the protests and unrest in Venezuela.
Everything was super informative until one listener called the radio station to proclaim that as an American, his interests lie in America and in our country only. And while one radio host agreed with his comments, the other stated that what happens around the world has an impact on us all.
We are, after all, citizens of the world, aren’t we?
While we only know blurred facts about what is actually going on in Venezuela, on the other side of the world the country of Ukraine is embattled in its own crisis, with protesters clashing with police on what looks to be the bloodiest day for the country since Soviet times.
Now while the news can only deliver so much, Hollywood has never been shy about showing their support to hard-hit and crisis-ridden areas around the world. In fact many of Hollywood’s A-list celebrities are also global human rights activists that express their support to those involved in anti-government protests. Hollywood actor George Clooney, who has worn a Yulia Tymoshenko shirt in support of the former Ukranian Prime Minister who is currently serving a seven-year prison term, sent a video message to Ukrainian demonstrators saying he hopes they achieve their aims of democracy.
Clooney has no affiliation with Ukraine, but as a public figure and an activist, his words were delivered both loud and clear. He said in his video: “When you look to the West, know that we are looking back at you with great admiration. We wish you a peaceful and safe mission. We wish you the government you want, and we wish you the strength to carry on.”
George Clooney isn’t the only Hollywood heavyweight who has an invested interest in democracy. Actress Hayden Panettiere, who is engaged to Ukranian Wladimir Klitschko, showed her support by visiting her future husband’s homeland and participating in the protests back in December. She told a crowd in Kiev: “There is a movement happening here, and we have a chance to make things right, to make things just.”
George Clooney and Hayden Panettiere are not alone, as Hollywood has played a role in supporting/protesting political movements ever since Jane Fonda visited Hanoi during the Vietnam War. Since then, many high-profile figures have become human rights activists and have toured countries around the world, aiming to bring the spotlight to those refugees who battle with survival and loss on a daily basis. Angelina Jolie, who is a special envoy for the U.N.’s Refugee Agency, has traveled to the world’s second-largest refugee camp in Syria, while fellow activist Sean Penn has even gone as far as testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on relief efforts for poverty-stricken Haiti. Going back to George Clooney, he has also actively supported the democratic movement in Southern Sudan for years.
Sure it might be easy to ask, “So what did George or Angelina or Sean really do for these countries? Or what can Hollywood really do?” Surely, there is a difference between playing a hero on the big screen and a hero in real life, but these actors are using their star power to not only show their support, but to help make headlines and increase awareness. Hollywood and politics have been a powerful cocktail of influence for decades, and it doesn’t look like that formula is going to go away anytime soon.
Going back to Angelina, who is a mother of 6, there is no doubt that she is setting a great example for her family when it comes to showing compassion and helping those less fortunate. Back in 2012, Angelina composed an essay about how she discussed the tragic shooting of 14-year-old Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai with her brood of children.
“I felt compelled to share Malala’s story with my children. It was difficult for them to comprehend a world where men would try to kill a child whose only “crime” was the desire that she and others like her be allowed to go to school,” Angelina wrote in the The Daily Beast.
As far as what George, Hayden, Angelina, and Sean can teach our children, it’s simple. Even during the most difficult times, it’s important to find your voice and speak up for those who can’t. A voice might only be one voice, but at the end of the day, that’s all it takes to make one message heard.
Photos via PacificCoastNews.com/Instagram
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