Social Update: Philanthropy, Social Issues and What It Says About Us

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With the recent developments regarding NFL players kneeling in order to spread a message, it's important to remember that these athletes are simply using the platform that their fame provides them with to spread a message. Regardless of where you fall on the debate of whether or not it's disrespectful to kneel during the anthem, celebrities have been using their fame in order to change things for a long time. Whether it's climate change awareness, police brutality, or general philanthropy, celebrities are unique when it comes to creating change. While a regular citizen without a platform needs strength in numbers in order to create change, celebrities can do some serious heavy lifting, single handed. By amassing a following of people who already support them, a celebrity need only bring attention to a topic to mobilize their fan base to act for them. It is a tool, that in the right hands, has the power to bring attention to even the least known issues. Here are some celebrities who have done just that. 

Leonardo DiCaprio is best known for his movie roles and major award snubs, but he's also a very active philanthropist and spearheads an effort to educate the masses about climate change. Most recently, Leo was in the news because of an eye raising meeting that he held with President Trump just after he was elected. The purpose of this meeting was to advocate for the Paris Agreement, the almost global effort to curb greenhouse emissions in the future, which the president ultimately pulled out of anyways. Regardless, Leo is the leader of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, whose goal is to allocate money to environmental protection causes, raising an estimated $10 million dollars throughout the years. DiCaprio also makes large donations to other causes like natural disasters and LGBT causes.

Another big name who uses their platform to bring attention to a big issue is Christina Aguilera. The multi award winning singer uses her platform to advocate for world hunger. She is currently a UN ambassador for the United Nations World Food program, and as part of her role she has visited many developing countries like Haiti and Rwanda to raise awareness about this big issue. In addition, every year she records PSAs to her fans and listeners and begs them to donate to the cause. In addition to donating her own money to battle hunger in undeveloped countries, she has also donated her time and money to a myriad of other issues. Just a few of these causes include animal abuse, violence against women, voting, natural disasters (Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, 2010 Haiti Earthquake), and orphans. 

Emma Watson also joins the list of celebrities who uses her position as a celebrity and role model to bring attention to an important topic. Watson's area of expertise is gender equality. Ever since she made it big by playing Hermoine in the Harry Potter movies, she's been a huge advocate of women's rights, and for good reason. In 2014, while delivering an address at the UN, she talked about being "sexualized by certain elements of the media" at the age of 14, stemming from her role in the Harry Potter movies. During the address she talked about a new UN initiative called HeForShe which calls for men to advocate for gender equality across the spectrum. In addition to this, she has visited Bangladesh, Zambia, and Uruguay, advocating for the importance of girls and women receiving proper education and participating in the political system to give them a voice. 

The list could go on and on. Some other celebrities that should receive praise are Adrian Grenier (environment), Elton John (HIV/AIDS), and Lucy Liu (children). However, on the other side of the spectrum, there is the opposite. There are many celebrities who, by all means, have the power to empower people, create real change, and talk about issues that matter. Instead, it is far easier to have your fan base hover over your every move, buy your latest apparel, and watch your reality TV shows. An obvious example of this kind of behavior is most of the Kardashian family. The Kardashians have a huge amount of power when it comes to cultivating public opinion. They could drive people to look at the world differently, to donate time or money to a good cause, to make a real difference in society. Instead of doing this, they do the opposite. They make money off of their fans. They create reality TV shows and get paid for it. They sell make-up, fragrances, clothes, shoes, and more. It would make sense for a family with a huge fortune like the Kardashians to donate some of this money to charitable causes, but instead they line their own pockets and make more money. 

However, the Kardashians do teach us one thing about ourselves as a society. More people know when the latest Kardashian is pregnant, gets a new boyfriend or girlfriend, gets divorces, than the latest donation that other celebrities have made to charitable causes. More people know about Khloe Kardashian being pregnant than the fact that the Jolie-Pitt Foundation recently donated $1 million dollars to Doctors Without Borders to combat the effects of natural and man-made disasters and war. The fact that we know more about the Kardashians than what other celebrities are doing to bring awareness to issues that really matter, tells us that we prefer to take the easy route. We prefer to dote over people who have never made a significant contribution to the world instead of helping others that really need it. The Kardashians make a statement about who we really are.