Actor and Director Tony Goldwyn Said …

  • June 07, 2018
  • Community Health, Hurricane, Leadership
Michael J. Nyenhuis

Michael J. Nyenhuis

Americares President and CEO Michael J. Nyenhuis leads a health-focused relief and development organization that saves lives and improves health for people affected by poverty or disaster.

I am reading a fascinating biography of Samuel Goldwyn Sr., who came to the United States from Poland on his own in 1899, a teenager with nothing to his name, and later made a name for himself as one of the founders and innovators in the motion picture industry.

The book — “Goldwyn” by A. Scott Berg — also serves as a substantive history of the film industry, documenting the growth of Hollywood and the rise of movie stars as influential figures in our society.

 

I have always been intrigued — and, frankly, a little skeptical — about the outsized role film stars and other celebrities play in our culture. The modern measure of this is the enormous social-media following celebrities have, whether actresses, football players, musicians, politicians or others.

When I get too cynical, I turn my focus to celebrities who use their fame and platform to elevate important causes in our world. I am grateful for the way these stars use their power.

At Americares, we are privileged to have Samuel Goldwyn Sr.’s grandson, the actor and director Tony Goldwyn, as an ambassador. He recently finished a seven-year run playing the president of the United States in one of network television’s most popular shows, ABC’s “Scandal.”

Bruce Fretts, Senior Articles Editor at Closer Weekly with Tony during Spotlight On: Tony Goldwyn. Photo by Americares

Bruce Fretts, Senior Articles Editor at Closer Weekly with Tony during Spotlight On: Tony Goldwyn. Photo by Americares

Tony and his family know Americares well. They have been involved in our work in a variety of ways for years. Whenever he has the chance, Tony speaks about his work with Americares and other causes he supports, such as The Innocence Project. This past weekend he spoke about his philanthropy at the Greenwich International Film Festival here in Connecticut. Tony was the featured guest at the festival’s Spotlight On series, described as a conversation that will “… cover growing up in a Hollywood dynasty, career highlights such as his breakthrough role in ‘Ghost,’ directing his first feature film, ‘A Walk on the Moon,’ and of course his role as President on ‘Scandal.’ Perhaps most importantly, Tony will discuss his involvement and inspirational experiences with Americares.”

Yes! Most importantly his involvement with Americares!

I’ve had conversations with Tony about how, as a celebrity, a great many people care about what he says and does. He told me he recognizes the responsibility that comes with fame and sees celebrity as an asset he can use for good. To his credit, he often does.

We are grateful to Tony and other stars who have recently helped shine a light on Americares work and the plight of those we serve. A couple of weeks ago, six players from the New York Giants traveled with Americares to Puerto Rico to participate in our post-hurricane recovery programs and drew attention to the needs that remain. Last fall, actor Ryan Reynolds, talk show host Dr. Oz, surfing champion Kelly Slater and the band Green Day used their fame to draw attention to our hurricane response efforts.

For years, former President George H. W. Bush and his late wife Barbara were ambassadors for Americares. I had the privilege to meet them at their summer home in Maine last year to present them an award for their years supporting humanitarian causes. “There are so many more deserving people in the world,” I remember Mrs. Bush saying.

On the one hand, she is right. I think about the health workers I have met who lack celebrity but do the work of true heroes to improve the lives of people struggling in the midst of poverty or disaster. I wish those health workers had a social media audience of millions listening to their voices. But they don’t.

That is why I am grateful that those who do have such influence — celebrities with big hearts and genuine concern for people suffering in the world — and use their voices for good.