Not content to just settle into the fame and riches of showbiz, actor and director Danny Glover long ago decided he wanted to help—really help—the needy around the world. On Dec. 3, Glover—a humanitarian and activist who’s served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2004—will be given the 2013 Audrey Hepburn Humanitarian Award at the UNICEF Snowflake Ball. Glover spoke with us about his passion for helping others, and what he loves about working with children around the world.
What I try to do through my connection with UNICEF, whether it’s in Sarajevo or Haiti or Brazil, is to highlight the work they do. That’s included bringing books printed in Arabic to schools in Egypt; running a land mine removal project in Ethiopia; establishing a clean water program outside the capital of Burkina Faso; and, on Bob Marley’s 60th birthday, hosting a celebration in Ethiopia using Marley’s music to bring people from all over Africa together. Those are the kinds of things that really excite me—watching how people become their own rescue. And UNICEF has been a part of all that.
I remember years ago, when I was doing off-Broadway shows in New York, I’d go to schools and talk to kids. I worked with the Model Cities Program from 1971 to 1977. I was also one of the first Goodwill Ambassadors in the United Nations Development Programme [which helps develop underserved communities in 177 countries around the world]. Then I began working in northern Libya, Mozambique and South Africa, which is where I went on my first mission in 1997.
When that program was eliminated, I decided that, because of UNICEF’s extraordinary history involving Audrey Hepburn, one of the most amazing givers in our profession; as well as Roger Moore; Harry Belafonte; and Danny Kaye—whom I’m named after—I wanted to be a part of what the organization was doing.
It really comes down to talking about the issues that affect children worldwide. I visited Sarajevo and talked to those young kids, some of whom had been directly impacted by the war. It was important to be able to be there without the camera and say, “I’m here with no agenda, because I genuinely care.” UNICEF provides me that opportunity.
Artists have a unique position in society. One of the last things actor and activist Ossie Davis said to me before he passed away was, “We need artists to save us from machines.” I can tell the stories of my work with communities abroad in my work as a storyteller. We can contextualize issues as art in a way that can make people feel compassion and empathy for what’s happening around them.
When I’m visiting children in countries like South Africa and Ethiopia, I see the face of my grandson in every one of them. I want him to be there with me and see these children and connect with them. I want him to bear witness to these children, and hopefully some of that will become embedded in his own personality and how he relates to others and to himself.
Every single child in this world belongs to all of us, whether we’re parents or not. They’re all our children because they represent not only our future but humanity’s future.
Tickets from $2,500, Cipriani Wall Street, 55 Wall St., snowflake.unicefusa.org