Yes, yes, I know. Money can’t buy happiness. And fame doesn’t make a person important. But it can attract attention to an issue, and it does influence people. Oh, and money does funds projects. So a famous, wealthy person really can do more than any old someone like…well, me. Take George Clooney for example. Yes, he’s good-looking. And he’s talented. And, boy, has he got money! He also happens to have the gift of compassion. I mean, who else was willing to go to hot, sandy, poverty stricken South Sudan? At his own expense? Sans publicity shots?
His father, Nick Clooney, was a news anchor. George said that growing up around news made him a “big believer in the importance of information.” He not only learned the importance of getting solid news information, but he also learned that in real life hard news is too often scrapped for celebrity gossip. “I saw my father doing really good stories and then getting bumped because there was a Liz Taylor story.”
George said that in 2006, when he learned of Sudan’s plight, his first reaction was to call his father. “I said, ‘Remember how you used to get all your stories bumped by Liz Taylor or something that happened in Hollywood?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Let’s go to Darfur. You be the newsman and I’ll be Liz Taylor and let’s get it on the air.'”
In 2006, George made the rounds in Washington, D.C., determined to convince lawmakers and the president to start negotiations with China to intervene in Sudan against the country’s president, Omar Al-Bashir, an alleged war criminal. “What’s going on right there is exactly what we saw in the beginning of Darfur,” he insisted. “The three men charged with war crimes at The Hague are the same three who are now bombing innocent civilians with Antonov planes with 300-millimeter Chinese rockets.”
Realistically, he said, the U.S. and NATO are not going take military action to stop the Sudanese government from bombing civilians. So instead he called for the U.S. to first employ the same techniques it used to discover the funding channels of terrorist organizations, then to go after the money that supports the Sudanese “war criminals.”
But it’s not really about money, he said. “It’s all about saving lives. We’re going to stand where people are shooting rockets at us, and we’re going to stand where a bomb hit the ground and didn’t blow up, and that helps get attention to the story that we are trying to tell. That’s all we can do. I don’t make policy. All I can do is make it louder.”
That was then. Today George Clooney is a married man. Father of twin babies. He’s not going to Sudan. But he hasn’t quit caring. His foundation is in the process of opening seven public schools for Syrian refugee children. Partnering with Google, HP, and UNICEF, the foundation will provide education for more than 3,000 refugee children.
Does Fame+Money+Compassion=A Better World? No. Unless the famous, wealthy, compassionate person is willing to use it all to do something great. And not make it a photo op.
“Nobody wants to read about a good-looking happy person.”