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Star Power: Martin Sheen's Fight for Justice

Posted: 01/10/2013 12:22 pm

Star Power: A six-pack of questions for celebs making a difference. Craig and Marc Kielburger, co-founders of Free The Children and Me to We, check in with some of their favourite actors, singers and activists to find out how they are changing the world.

Martin Sheen is truly a living Hollywood legend. The star of countless films, he is synonymous with epic cinematic events that have captured subjects from Mahatma Gandhi to the Vietnam War on the big screen. And on the small screen he remains, arguably, America's most revered and beloved fictional president.

Yet despite his accomplishments as an artist, acting is not where his true passions lie. In fact his "real" work typically takes him quite far from the bright lights of Tinseltown. As a pacifist, humanitarian and tireless activist for peace and social justice, Martin can boast a rap sheet nearly as long as his list of acting credits, having been arrested more than 60 times for public protests and acts of civil disobedience.

As a good friend of Free The Children, Martin regularly appears on the We Day stage. With his words, commitment and enthusiasm, he continues to inspire young people to end apathy once and for all. We caught up with him -- again -- at We Day Alberta.


Why do you speak to young people here (at We Day)?

It is the only way I can come to know myself.

As I stand there, my heart is pounding, my knees are shaking -- all of my insecurities are boiling over the top looking for any excuse to have this cup pass from me.

It's a very severe challenge to stand up, to declare yourself, to be humble enough to allow yourself to be the subject of a whole lot of possible criticism and failure and to accept that that's the only way you can grow. Because if I don't come here and I don't speak, I have stunted my growth. Each time I come here it is no less difficult. Public speaking is the number one fear in North America. It is higher than death itself, public speaking. And I can understand why.

This is my Mount Kilimanjaro. And it's costly. It's gotta cost you something otherwise you're left to question its value. You don't know how valuable it is until you walk off. It's a real joy.

What does it mean to change the world?

We talk about change in the world -- I don't really believe that we change the world. We change ourselves in the world and hence the world is changed. And you're still evolving so you can't know what it is the world needs to change; you can only be a part of the metamorphosis.

You have to trust that by sharing your love and your light in the darkest corners, you are basically nurturing and staying in yourself. The rest is God's work.

What do you feel is the biggest, most pressing issue facing the world today?

I think the greatest threat to every culture on earth, to the world as a whole, is poverty, ignorance, and disease because it's very difficult to capture people's imaginations if they have not been nourished by enlightenment and joy and commitment.

When you can mislead people into surrendering to the very worst part of themselves, that is the greatest threat to any organization, family, state, parish, tribe, community -- when people become convinced that the darker part of their nature is the dominant one.

They are ruled by fear and arrogance, and the old phrase "arrogance is ignorance matured" comes into play when we do not recognize the severity of poverty and ignorance and disease in the world. That is our greatest security risk -- when people are so desperate and so marginalized, so poor and so hungry, they will do anything that a mob mentality can inspire them to do.

Many people look up to you as a role model -- who is your hero?

Oh gosh, I have so many. Desmond Tutu. One of my favourite images, the most powerful images -- and I weep when I see it-- is him weeping at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission when he's hearing testimony. He just lowers his lead to the desk and weeps.

He is definitely one of my heroes. But my first heroes were my father and mother and as I got older, I became inspired by the Kennedy brothers.

And the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., of course. He never ran for [or] held public office. He was inspiring from the grassroots -- a community organizer by and large.

What was the greatest lesson you learned from a parent or a mentor?

To tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth all the time. That is my wife's character and it took me 20 years to accept it and live it myself. Because nothing is more important than living the truth -- you can't come to know your true self if you're living a lie.

What advice would you give your high-school self, if you could?

Don't take yourself so damned seriously.

Do you think your high-school self would have listened to you?

Not a chance. No. Not a chance.

What kind of legacy would you like to leave?

Absolutely none. The sooner I'm forgotten, the better. I once heard it said -- it may have been Frank Sinatra. He was asked, "What would you like to be remembered for?" And the reply was, "For about five minutes." I concur with that. I think it's wonderful.

Well now, I'll take five minutes and be gone.

Craig and Marc Kielburger are founders of international charity and educational partner, Free The Children. Its youth empowerment event, We Day, is in eight cities across Canada this year, inspiring more than 100,000 attendees. For more information, visit www.weday.com

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  • No. 1: Justin Bieber

    Being a "Belieber" means so much more than just fawning over the teen heartthrob's sweeping hairdo -- it also means keeping up with the pop star's constant charity giving, from <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/18/justin-bieber-donates-cus_n_1018326.html" target="_hplink">auctioning off his bike</a> to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/06/justin-bieber-scores-1000_n_949589.html" target="_hplink">playing in a basketball fundraiser game.</a> The pop star's most recent generous endeavor was launching a charity campaign along with his holiday album</a>. It benefited seven charities, including <a href="http://www.pencilsofpromise.org/" target="_hplink">Pencils of Promise</a> and <a href="http://www.cityofhope.org/Pages/default.aspx" target="_hplink">City of Hope.</a> "I know firsthand that if you believe in your dreams, everything is possible," <a href="http://www.justinbiebermusic.com/believecharity/" target="_hplink">Bieber said on his website.</a> Find a charity you "Beliebe" in <a href="http://www.justinbiebermusic.com/believecharity/" target="_hplink">here. </a>

  • No. 2: Lady Gaga

    For her outspoken support and advocacy for members of the LGBT community, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/20/lady-gaga-trevor-hero-award_n_1103896.html" target="_hplink">Lady Gaga was honored with the Trevor Hero Award</a> earlier this month. "Our young people are at the center of a health crisis, and vocal leaders like Lady Gaga...have stepped up to help change our culture," David McFarland, interim executive director and CEO of the Trevor Project, <a href="http://www.pressparty.com/pg/newsdesk/ladygaga/view/35896/" target="_hplink">said in a statement.</a> One of the many "You and I" singer's charity initiatives this year included <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/13/lady-gagas-nude-portrait-_n_1145661.html" target="_hplink">auctioning off nude photos and a naked portrait of herself on eBay to benefit her Born This Way Foundation. </a> Learn more about Gaga's charity, launching in 2012, <a href="http://bornthiswayfoundation.org/" target="_hplink">here. </a>

  • No. 3: Bono

    Determined to end the famine that took the lives of nearly 30,000 children in Africa, Bono, who is a HuffPost blogger, commissioned the help of big-name celebrities to produce <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bono/famine-africa-sudan-_b_992939.html" target="_hplink">The F Word: Famine is the Real Obscenity</a>, a short film that informs of the famine's devastating effects. Sign ONE's petition <a href="http://one.org/us/actnow/fword_splash.html" target="_hplink">here</a> to call on world leaders to help.

  • No. 4: Scarlett Johansson

    It wasn't enough for Scarlett Johansson to just a write a check for those suffering from hunger and drought in East Africa. The actress, an Oxfam ambassador, chronicled her experience through a<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scarlett-johansson/food-crisis-in-east-africa_b_979003.html" target="_hplink"> series of exclusive HuffPost blogs</a>. She described the conditions, learned about long-term solutions and met with pastoralists and farmers who described a sense of hope amid heartache -- ultimately galvanizing others to get involved in the cause. To help Oxfam continue to save famine victims, donate <a href="https://secure.oxfamamerica.org/site/SPageNavigator/donate_East_Africa_Crisis.html?utm_source=Scarlett&utm_medium=Redirect" target="_hplink">here. </a>

  • No. 5: Angelina Jolie

    Ten years after getting inspired to help refugees while filming "Tomb Raider" in Cambodia, Angelina Jolie is still fulfilling her mission to raise awareness for global humanitarian issues with the UNHCR. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/04/angelina-jolie-honored-fo_n_995369.html" target="_hplink">Jolie was honored for her decade of service</a> in October and was asked to take on the expanded role of "special envoy" to the nations that are struggling the most. Help give a voice to refugees by donating to UNHCR <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c368.html" target="_hplink">here. </a>

  • No. 6: 50 Cent

    Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson made an about-face in 2011. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/curtis-50-cent-jackson/50-cent-street-king-hunger_b_1016830.html" target="_hplink">The HuffPost blogger, </a>motivated by his struggles growing up, launched a line of energy drinks that provides meals for families in Africa.<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/26/50-cent-discusses-new-boo_n_1033290.html" target="_hplink"> Jackson also wrote a book this year on bullying </a>-- acknowledging he was once part of the problem. Help 50 give back by visiting his site <a href="http://www.streetking.com/giving-back/ " target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • No. 7: Matt Damon

    To teach kids how important it is to advocate for countries that don't have clean water, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/09/matt-damon-teaches-kids-a_n_1138760.html" target="_hplink">Matt Damon dressed up as Santa Claus for Christmas</a> and told the children perched on his lap how wishing for a Water.org bottle this season could hep bring potable drinking water to those in need. Support Water.org's holiday campaign <a href="http://water.org/gift/" target="_hplink">here. </a>

  • No. 8: Ben Affleck

    When the historic Congo election came with ballot stuffing, intimidation and a lack of support for women and illiterate voters, Ben Affleck headed out there in December to investigate what was happening on the ground. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ben-affleck/averting-disaster-in-the-congo_b_1135572.html" target="_hplink">This HuffPost blogger returned with a three-part series, co-written with Cindy McCain</a>, about the injustices people in the region face.

  • No. 9: Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher

    In true form, Ashton Kutcher mixed entertainment and information, aiming to reach a wide audience in April when The Demi and Ashton Foundation launched a huge campaign to spread awareness about sex slavery. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/11/ashton-kutcher-demi-moore-trafficking_n_847291.html" target="_hplink">The launch video for the campaign, featuring Arianna Huffington</a>, spurred conversation about the issue and brought to light the harsh facts surrounding trafficking. Take action to fight sex slavery by visiting the <a href="http://demiandashton.org/action-center" target="_hplink">DNAFoundation here. </a>

  • No. 10: Ellen Degeneres

    Ellen DeGeneres was named the Obama administration's new secret weapon this year in the fight against AIDS. DeGeneres was deemed the new special envoy to raise global awareness, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/08/degeneres-named-aids-envo_0_n_1082000.html" target="_hplink">the <em>Associated Press</em> reported</a>. Sec. of State Hilary Rodham Clinton cited DeGeneres' "sharp wit and big heart, and her impressive TV audience and 8 million followers on Twitter." The TV host also supports animal, poverty and breast cancer organizations, among dozens of other charities. Support DeGeneres and the work of the <a href="http://www.theglobalfund.org/en/donate/" target="_hplink">Global Fund here</a>.

  • No. 11: Sheryl Crow

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/03/slideshow_n_991609.html#s384087&title=Betsey_Johnson" target="_hplink">To help breast cancer sufferers facing the disease that she overcame</a>, Sheryl Crow helped found <a href="http://www.pinklotusbreastcenter.com/sheryl-crow-imaging-center/" target="_hplink">the Sheryl Crow Imaging Center</a> -- in conjunction with <a href="http://www.pinklotusbreastcenter.com/" target="_hplink">L.A.'s Pink Lotus Breast Center</a> -- which offers the latest advancements in digital screening and diagnostic imaging technologies. The only one of its kind in the country, the center provides free treatment to uninsured women. Want to help a patient in need? Donate <a href="http://www.pinklotuspetals.org/" target="_hplink">here.</a>


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