Posts tagged with "8th Annual Philanthropy Summit"

Town & Country 8th Philanthropy Summit – Marlo Thomas × Phil Donahue

The 8th annual Town & Country Philanthropy Summit continued today with a wonderful conversation between Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue, moderated by Editor in Chief Stellene Volandes. This is the first time that Phil has interviewed Marlo since they first met on the Donahue show decades ago.

Please see below for highlights from the panel as well as a link to view the interview in its entirety:

Marlo on visiting St. Jude following her father’s death:

“After my father died, it was just a terrible shock to us. It was stunning because he hadn’t been sick, so it was very sudden. He was adored by us. We all loved him, and he was our funny, loving perfect daddy so it was very, very hard. We all decided that you know, we’d go to St. Jude and let them know that we were here if they needed us and so I went to St. Jude, a couple of months later. I drove up and there was a sixteen feet statue of St. Jude right at the entrance, and I started to cry because I’ve been there so many times with my dad. I pulled myself together because I didn’t want to cry in front of the parents, they have enough heartache of their own. I went inside and, in the lobby, there was this party going on. All of these little kids running around with party hats, balloons, confetti, ice cream, and cake. I said to the nurse, ‘Well whose birthday, is it?’ She said, ‘Oh it’s not a birthday party, it’s an off-chemo party.’ Well, I’ll tell you, I just gasped, to see these children celebrating one of their turns for the better. All of these moms and dads and grandparents standing around with tears in their eyes because they felt that if this child made it, maybe their beloved child would too. It was really a stunning moment for me. And then, just as I was standing there, this mom came over with a little girl about four years old, all dressed in pink. She had little pink ribbons jauntily tied around her little bald head and the mother said to her, ‘do you know who’s this lady’s daddy is?’ and the little girl shyly answered, ‘yes’ the mother said ‘who?’ She [little girl] proudly said, ‘St. Jude.’ I just fell in love with her. I fell in love with all of those kids in the off-chemo party. I fell in love with this place. And I realized for the first time, just what all of this hope and love and promise and the future of a second chance for children meant to my father. It really helped me to see myself as a part of it.”

Marlo on what she learned from her father: 

“Well, what I learned from dad, really is that he had a lot of sayings, and one of them was there’s two kinds of people in the world: those who stop on an accident to see if they can help or those who just drive by. He was literally the kind that would stop and help. I remember one time, we were driving by down Sunset Blvd. we saw these boys beating up on another little boy. And my father stopped the car and jumped out. He pulled the boys apart and gave them a big talking to. I was sitting in the car, terrified, I was eight years old. He got back in the car. He brought the little boy that’ve been bullied with him. We were going to drop him off at home and as my dad started the car, he said, ‘I hate a bully.’ And I think to him, cancer in children was a bully. A bully that he wanted to defeat. The thing about my dad too is that he really was a citizen of the world, that we all are citizens of the world…He saw himself as part of the neighborhood as a part of a community wherever he was, he was a part of that community. I think that was a great lesson for my sister, my brother, and I.”

Phil Donahue on his first visit to St. Jude and how that impacted him: 

“My first visit to St. Jude, I picked up a little bald-headed kid. I said, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up, big guy?’ This still makes me cry. The kid said, ‘I just don’t want to be sick anymore.’ Well, my god, I grabbed this kid. You know, for a very brief moment, I kind of felt how parents feel when they take a child to St. Jude. How scary it must be and how I didn’t want that child to see my eyes get moist. So, it’s a real learning experience at St. Jude. It changed me forever. I do wish everybody could visit the hospital. It’s a life-changing experience and when you see the parents arrive with a child. You see the real fear on their faces, terror sometimes. Then you see them leaving and they’re better. It’s like a godsent – the change they feel, and that their children feel.”

Marlo on being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and her version of the American Dream: 

“One of the things that happened in my life that was really big a great deal, because of my work with St. Jude, is that I received the Medal of Freedom from President Obama. My husband and I went, and my brother came, and the head of St. Jude came. The interesting thing about it, is when you are growing up, especially as an actress, you dream of getting an Emmy or an Oscar or a Tony, but I don’t think anybody grows up dreaming about the Medal of Freedom. It just comes as a shock when you’re told you will be receiving this at the White House. And I remember I was stunned. Remember we discussed that I wasn’t going to cry? So, I’m not going to cry, but I did because at the moment President Obama was clasping the medal around my neck, I thought of my grandparents. My grandparents were immigrants who came to this country from Lebanon to find a better way of life, to raise their family and their children. And I saw them in my mind’s eye, I could see my grandparents with all their belongings and cloth bags. And here, their granddaughter just two generations later were in the White House receiving the Medal of Freedom from the President of the United States. I mean, that is the American Dream. I’m so proud of the fact that my grandparents made a life in this country.”

Marlo on how celebrity involvement has helped the foundation: 

“That’s a very interesting thing because just as in our generation, we brought in Jennifer Aniston and Robin Williams and all of those wonderful people. My dad did that, that’s how he built the hospital. He used to say this hospital was built with laughter George Burns and the Bob Hope and all of the funny guys—Jerry Lewis and Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, all of the men and women that were on the night club circuit with my dad helped build St. Jude. In fact, Frank Sinatra did so many benefits that we actually have a whole wing that’s called the Frank Sinatra wing. Their generosity really built the hospital.”

Watch the full summit here.

The T&C Summit continues tomorrow with Stacy-Marie Ishmael speaking to Taraji P. Henson and Jamie Raskin, and Stellene Volandes in conversation with Andreas Dracopoulos. If you are interested in attending register directly here.

Town & Country’s 8th Philanthropy Summit – Pharrell Williams × José Andrés

The 8th annual Town & Country Philanthropy Summit kicked off today with an amazing conversation between Pharrell Williams and José Andrés, moderated by Soledad O’Brien.

See below for highlights from the panel as well as a link to view the interview in its entirety:

Pharrell Williams on how he thinks about philanthropy and what his goals are: 

“When we think about the African diaspora and people of color and what people who are deemed ‘minorities’ – which we are actually not—but that’s just the saying. There are three pillars that affect us the most—disproportionate access to education, disproportionate access to healthcare, and also disproportionate access to legislation. I think the first two are the ones that I want to focus on because they’re the ones that I feel like I can, through my resources and even my likenesses whenever needed, that I can actually make a difference in education and healthcare. These are the things that hurt us the most.”

José Andrés on why he focuses on food insecurity:

“I am one more cook in the universe of people that feed people in America or around the world. But people like me, we only feed the few. I am in the power, when you began thinking, we can also be a part of feeding the many. And where we can join forces to the many around America, and around many places in the world, in the most difficult moments, to be able to bring solutions. For me, food is my way of doing it, but what we do is only a drop of water in an ocean of empathy. It requires a lot of props of empathy to make things happen. Obviously what I do is more focused on emergencies, I don’t like to see people in mayhem; people who, already in the good times forgotten, that are voiceless, that nobody takes care of. It’s even worse when a hurricane, an earthquake, an explosion of fire, a pandemic, hits their communities even further. That’s the moment that I feel the urgency of now being yesterday, and I love to bring my community and try to be nice to as many people as we can in these moments of mayhem. At the end of the day, one plate of food at a time won’t solve every problem but at least you buy time. And you give hope to people who need it the most.”

Pharrell on how he and Jose met and joined forces: 

“Catherine Kimmel – the great connector – took me to an event. Here’s a guy that you really need to meet because, like you, he takes what it is he does and puts it to better usage and thinks about others… [at an event in New York] I was so impressed because there were so many chefs there but this guy – it was different. Yes, he’s a chef and he’s all about his ingredients and recipes, but his greatest meal was his operation and people and his ability to galvanize. It was really apparent that everyone was centered around him and all he wanted to do was feed people and bring people together and help people see that through our differences and our challenges are actually a lot of solutions and we can make the world a better place and I was really blown away… Then we met and we realized there were a lot of things he was doing that I could be instrumental in helping him.”

José on meeting Pharrell and what attracted him to Pharrell:

“I go and meet Pharrell and he’s even better, he’s the better half. What you get is a good vibe – it’s very difficult to describe. You know, you read about people, NBA players, amazing musicians and I’m not only looking for the amazing things they do, which I love, but what’s behind. When you see that behind is something very powerful that they’re putting at the service of others – their power, their money, their contacts but something even more powerful is their brain connecting with their empathy within their hearts… We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without people like them. Pharrell knows and more importantly loves his community. We were able to do it in Virginia Beach and be there because Pharrell opened to us the doors of being that community without being foreigners. We were able to partner with local people, with local restaurants.”

José on how his family impacted his values and his metaphor on life:

“My mom and dad always believed in longer tables, not higher ones. The table will always be ready for whoever showed up… My father would put me in charge of making the fire. I did that since I was young, and I would become very good at making the fire. But my father was very particular, and he would never let me near the chicken… [he would say] ‘My son I know you wanted to do the cooking, but actually doing the fire and controlling the fire is the most important thing, everyone wants to do the cooking without understand the fire. My son you already have the biggest gift. Control the fire, master the fire, and then you can do any cooking you want.’ (I don’t know if my father told me that story with that idea or I’m making it more romantic along the way as the years pass by). My father was giving me a mantra for life itself: find your fire, control your fire, master your fire, and then you can do any cooking you want in your life.”

Pharrell on his foundation YELLOW:

“For us, we want to even the odds. I know that I was a very lucky person who benefitted from my teachers seeing something in me. They didn’t know what they were telling me or which way the way to go but they kept telling me to keep going. I think that had a profound effect on me because essentially education is the toolbox that every human being is going to need out in the world just to function… What we wanted to do is look at a curriculum that could assess these children and figure out how they comprehend information best. Then eventually make a curriculum that is sensory based and not sensory biased. If you learn differently than how the curriculum is being taught, then automatically you’re deemed as remedial… with the YELLOW hub, it’s the space where kids can learn based on their way they process their information.”

Pharrell on the education system:

“I love public school teachers and you know, love the unions as well, but the education the educational system is antiquated. I mean just ask your favorite Fortune 500 CEO – they might not be the best, they might not be well read, but that does not stop their genius. And this is what we want. We want to make sure that we reach every child by properly assessing their learning potential and comprehension preferences, and making sure that they have a curriculum that is based for them. Sensory bias is an issue, but sensory based learning special educational systems is the future. That’s how every child slip through the cracks and we get to eventually even the odds.”

José on how the pandemic affected and influenced his philanthropy:

“I think this year has changed all of us profoundly… Fundamentally has changed me. First, obviously take care of your family. I tried to be a father who took care of his daughters and my wife and trying to keep them safe. Every mother and father tried to do that. But then I began thinking that to take care of my daughters, it’s not putting them behind walls, to take care of my daughters, is bringing down those walls and trying to work as hard to provide for the other daughters and sons of other people I don’t know that they are trying to achieve the same for their children. The way I’m going to keep my daughters safer is not behind walls but with longer tables, where I work as hard to provide for my daughters as I’m going to work to provide for the daughters I don’t know. Fundamentally this is what changed me.”

José on what people get wrong about philanthropy:

“Robert Egger, my favorite food fighter, he said that it seems philanthropy is usually about the redemption of the giver, when philanthropy essentially needs to be about the liberation of the receiver. It’s nothing wrong to give and donate time or money or your brain and feel good about it, but fundamentally in this pandemic, I learned that to give, it’s not good enough, that we must do good, yes, but we must do smart good.”

Pharrell on the changes he has noticed this year:

“Empathy is at an all-time low. It’s not where it needs to be. There’s a lot of sympathy and pity, but there’s not empathy. And we need more of that, we need more empathy, we need more humility, we need more gratitude. I think the pandemic, for me, has taken me to that place where that’s the only thing I can think about.”

View the summit here.

The T&C Summit continues tomorrow (June 22, 2021 @ 12:30-1:30 PM EDT) with a panel between the power media couple Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue. Register directly here.