The Power of Passion
March 26, 2007
(March 25, 2007) Actress and activist Brooke Shields knows a thing or two about the power of celebrity. After all, she has spent nearly her entire life in front of a camera and in the public eye. What she has gradually come to know, however, is the power of passion.
At the Opening Plenary Session on Sunday, Shields spoke candidly and from the heart, displaying none of the “diva” qualities one would expect from someone who has been acting and modeling since she was only 11 months old. As she explained, this is due to the choices she has made along the way.
When she was young, she was a “youth spokesperson for everything,” she explained to the crowd of nearly 4,000 fundraisers gathered in Dallas for the 44th AFP International Conference on Fundraising. However, back then she was too young to really understand and appreciate the strength that comes from really investing in a cause.
Growing up famous was not as easy as many would think, and she constantly had to prove herself to others—and find the means to believe in herself.
“I never let myself think about failure,” she said. Whether trying to fit in at a normal high school and later at Princeton University, to succeeding in a business where one’s career can turn from “hot” to “cold” over night, Shields found her voice and stretched herself for new challenges on Broadway and on television.
“I could not choose to give up,” she emphasized. “Don’t let doubt come in to the picture. I quietly cringe about some of the things I have said and done (‘Why didn’t someone explain to me what “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins?” really meant?’), but [these choices] have shaped what I am today.”
Those choices also have enabled her to give back in ways that others could not. “Being a celebrity does not make me an expert, but it does provide the opportunities to help. My commitment has grown as I have grown, with a belief that transcends money. … You don’t have to be extraordinary to make a difference. No effort is too small. … It’s being awakened to other people’s situations. We are not powerless. We are here because of our choices.”
Shields then answered questions in an informal Q&A session. When asked how she chooses which causes to support, she explained that this was a very difficult process. “You don’t want to spread yourself too thin,” she said. “You realize you can’t do it all.”
A long-time supporter of Toys for Tots and Ronald McDonald House, Shields is often approached to lend her support. “It is so much easier to say no,” she explained. “When you say yes, you are accountable.”
As for celebrity involvement, she said that if her position or her face at an event could create greater awareness, then it would be beneficial. However, the motive cannot be doing something for show or to receive recognition. “I want to hear, ‘If you show up at an event, we can build another school.’ I want to see where I fit in the whole chain and see what I do has a direct positive effect.”
For the audience she offered a final observation, “You all should be up here [on stage] and I should be alone in seats watching you. The work you do is tireless, and I learn from you continually. Don’t stop. It’s like raising children. If I tell my daughter something often enough, she gets it.”
Related AFP ResourcesMind the Gender Gap: Canadian Women’s Role in Philanthropy
It’s Not Too Late! Find Your Passion for the Every Member Campaign
A Different Kind of "Idol" and The "Why" of Philanthropy
National Philanthropy Day® to Feature Countdown to Impact Challenge
Ipsos Reid fact sheets on “What Canadian donors want” available for download