Posts Tagged ‘Ben Stiller’

STILLERSTRONG

Ben Stiller is a smartass. We knew that–it’s why we love him. He is able to send up serious situations that bring levity while still being respectful (though not necessarily exhibiting outer respect). We see it in films and TV appearances, and I saw it when he hosted the final evening of last year’s Clinton Global Initiative. Sometimes we can’t believe we are laughing in light of such seriousness, being in the presence of majesty (literal and figurative) and victories over suffering and the face of so much suffering still to be vanquished–and there’s Ben, goofing on it all and on us. Well, he’s at it again–blessedly. He has launched a new foundation, STILLERSTRONG, and uses as a catch phrase “Stealing Great Ideas from Other Charities to Build Schools in Haiti.”

Stiller actually started his work before the January quake, inspired by a visit to Haiti in 2009. He has already raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to build schools in the country, in partnership with Architecture for Humanity, Causecast, and the Global Philanthropy Group.

“Our goal is to help kids get back in school as quickly as possible,” said Stiller. “Schools are a safe haven for kids in times of crisis, and are instrumental in delivering not only education but also healthcare, nutrition and other critical services.”

I hope I’ll see Ben when I’m there building schools in August. Flashing a little Blue Steel. We are not on the same project, but have the same dream and goal for helping heal Haiti.

Clinton Global Initiative-Day 3

Alicia Keys-Keep a Child Alive

Alicia Keys-Keep a Child Alive

Usher-Powered by Service

Usher-Powered by Service

CGI-DAY 3

Today, Day 3—Thursday, seems to be celeb day, even more than the past two. I was in a press conference with Usher (who just donated a million dollars and is launching a new youth service program, “Powered by Service” http://www.poweredbyservice.org). Really Usher, you’re chewing gum for this? The new project aims to mobilize 5 million young people in initiating projects to serve their communities. He is partnered with several other organizations, including Philippe Cousteau and his focus on Oceans of the World with the “Waterplanet Challenge.” I bumped into, literally, James Brolin who was standing with Barbra Streisand—ended up dashing for the exit with them at the end of the night when we were ducking out a bit early.

Ricky Martin opened a session about human trafficking—his focus with the Ricky Martin Foundation (http://www.rickymartinfoundation.org). He’s looking very buttoned up in his black suit and gray tie. He gets choked up as he says, “I’m here because there are so many kids who didn’t make it,” we lost them, he tells us, to slavery, sexual slavery, and human trafficking.

This is also the focus of Mira Sorvino and Julia Ormond, who are here. There’s Bono being called up on the stage, next to Jessica Alba. Eve Ensler, Jesse Jackson….and this is before the evening awards ceremony with Demi & Ashton, Alicia Keys performing, Ben Stiller as MC, Lisa Ling presenting an award, and Quincy Jones giving a super-long speech. The carpet is blue throughout this hotel, but today it seems it ought to be red.

Queen Rania of Jordan—the most stunning ruler in the world—is one of the panelists on the dais for “Building Human Capital—Creating Jobs and Strong Communities.” She gets a big reaction when she tells us, “It would cost $11 billion dollars to put every child in the world into primary education. That is the money Americans spend on their pets every three months.”

Devastating statistics again float out: On average, paternally-led families that earn one dollar a day spend, on average, 2 cents on education and 20 cents on alcohol, sugar drinks, prostitution, and gambling. When mothers are given the money to make family decisions, almost 95 cents gets re-invested into their families.

Brad Pitt, with his pointy, Green Arrow-looking beard, gets the hallways buzzing—he is a featured panelist in the Town Hall meeting, “Building a Better Future—A Progress Report on Make it Right, New Orleans.” Make it Right was born from this conference three years ago, and will, by this time next year, have built 150 houses in the Lower Ninth Ward that are green, aesthetically designed, sustainable, and affordable. Many families are already back home from their paradigm-shifting work. Bill Clinton wonders why, if we can do it in New Orleans for no more money than traditional, wasteful architecture—why would we ever build the old way, anywhere, again?

After truly dense days of emotionally and intellectually challenging forums large and small, the evening awards are a nice relief. The ballroom has gone through a mild transition—tables have dark tablecloths instead of white, more elegant chairs have been swapped in, the crowd arrives more dressed up with lots of cocktail dresses, suits, and an array of beautiful native fabrics from cultures around the world. Juanes, the most popular Latin recording star, does a couple of great numbers, and Alicia Keys, a CGI member with her outstanding fight against AIDS (http://www.keepachildalive.org), closes out with her hits, including “Superwoman,” particularly poignant considering the day’s insights.

To have been present this week to such profound commitment and the energy to make change, it felt like the people in these rooms had the drive and determination to solve all the problems in the world. How can we not, every one of us, want to be part of that?

Philippe Cousteau-Waterplanet Challenge

Philippe Cousteau-Waterplanet Challenge

Ricky Martin-Ricky Martin Foundation

Ricky Martin-Ricky Martin Foundation

Clinton Global Initiative

obama-and-pres-clintonCLINTON GLOBAL INITIATIVE-DAY ONE

Last night, Tuesday, was the opening plenary session and welcome for the Clinton Global Initiative fifth annual meeting. There were a thousand members of the press wedged into the basement of the New York Sheraton hotel, and a thousand special guests upstairs in the Metropolitan Ballroom…and at least a thousand more security and secret service.

After metal detectors and security wands and pat downs, I was finally admitted to the bowels of the building. The technology is impressive with several Wi-Fi channels and the conference even has it’s own closed messaging system, so Barbra Streisand can tell Brad Pitt his haircut looks great and it’ll stay between them.

The CGI is an annual gathering of Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and charitable orgs, business leaders, and world leaders (the rooms are lousy with presidents and prime ministers) who gather to make specific commitments to projects to better the world. This was the birthplace, in past years, of projects like Matt Damon’s water program (www.water.org, expanding this year to Haiti), the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Initiative, and so many more. In the five years since beginning there have been 1,400 commitments made (participants are required to make commitments to existing projects or commit to creating new projects), valued at $46 billion dollars, and impacting the lives of 200 million people in 150 countries. This year’s meeting will give birth to 30 more of these programs.

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