To actually feel like you’ve done something good with your life and you’re useful to others is what I was always wanting, and was always looking for.
– Angelina Jolie, American actress, film director, screenwriter, and author
I’m not into the concept of “girl crush.” I’ll use the term in a joking manner, but it’s just not part of my lexicon. I’m more comfortable with saying that I admire certain women. The other day I read an article about Angelina Jolie accepting an honorary Oscar for her humanitarian work at the Governors Awards ceremony in Hollywood this past Saturday. Jolie is one of those famous women who other women either love or late. I for one am a member of her admiration club.
In accepting her award from George Lucas, she remembered her mother, Marcheline Betrand, who was only 56 years old when she died of ovarian cancer. Jolie said of her mother, “She did give me love and confidence, and above all, she was very clear that nothing would mean anything if I didn’t have a life of use to others.” I appreciate this quote because it embodies her spirit of generosity, the largeness of her heart, and a sense of community. It also entreats us to find out how we can help others and discover what our unique gift is so that we may nurture it and share it with the world.
It’s well-known that Jolie’s humanitarian work was inspired by seeing warn-torn Cambodia, where the filming of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) took place. Last Saturday, Jolie told the audience: “It was only when I began to travel that I understood my responsibility to others.” Indeed, once she returned home from making the movie, she became involved with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and began visiting refugee camps in international trouble spots. She has gone on more than 40 missions in more than 30 countries for the United Nations Refugee Agency.
While known for her work in refugee camps, Jolie has also been involved with the Millennium Villages Project, which is run by the Earth Institute at Columbia University, the United Nations Development Programme, and Millennium Promise. The project’s goal is to end extreme poverty, gender and health inequities, and disease through rural development, environmental sustainability, and the building of basic infrastructure.
She had the financial means to buy up land in Cambodia and convert it into a wildlife reserve named after her son Maddox in 2003, later expanding the project in 2006 to become Asia’s first Millennium Village. Jolie has built and funded 10 schools in Cambodia outside of the Village and a care facility for children with HIV. In Ethiopia, she founded a children’s center named after her daughter Zahara that treats children with HIV and tuberculosis. The Global Health Committee runs both children’s centers. The Jolie-Pitt Foundation, established in 2006, funds many of the facilities and projects such as the building of schools, some of which are all-girls schools, in Kenya and Afghanistan.
Jolie has lobbied for humanitarian causes, advocating for legislation to protect women and children in developing nations and war-torn regions. Clearly, she has the money and the star power to affect change. But she could easily have not done any of this work or, especially, volunteer her time. Yet she does, and it’s not a fad or a publicity stunt. Jolie is deeply connected to humanity, and it is that dedication and commitment to our most vulnerable fellow human beings and our world that makes me such an ardent admirer of her. Whatever her flaws, I don’t care. She is a role model in matters of the heart. I applaud her big heart and her humanity. Girl crush. Okay, I said it.