Advocacy

The photo here is of me with Chris Reeve at a rally in New York in 1995, on behalf of water protection.

In the late 80’s and into the 90’s, I dedicated myself to the work of The Creative Coalition, an organization founded by Ron Silver, Chris, Blair Brown, and Susan Sarandon. TCC was funded, in part, by the generosity of then HBO CEO Michael Fuchs. Sharon O’Connell was its Executive Director.

The group had an outstanding board and Ron Silver’s passion (and his insistence that TCC emerge as a group of entertainment figures who studied specific issues with dedication and knew the ins and outs of their core positions) produced many positive results. Taking the Amtrak to DC with Silver, Susan, Chris, et al and grilling one another on our pitch to lobby Congress on behalf of the National Endowment for the arts was the beginning of a wonderful time in my advocacy work. At the time of his catastrophic accident, Chris was president of TCC. After his injury, I became president and was most gratified to oversee the group’s growth and increased effectiveness.

TCC worked on behalf of reproductive rights for women, federal funding for the arts, gun control, campaign finance reform, and environmental protection.

The other photo is of me with Norman Lear and, obviously, Gregory Peck. Norman had invited me to his home in 1988 for a fundraiser for then Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis. Soon afterward, Lear asked me to join the board of PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY which I view as one of the honors of my lifetime. Peck had been a supporter of Lear’s organization.

This photo was taken at a fundraiser in Los Angeles. (To say that I was star struck to meet Peck, one of my greatest idols, is the epitome of understatement.)

What began in 1977 with an internship in the DC office of Congressman Jerome Ambro, who represented my home district on Long Island, to performing “constituent services” in the Santa Monica office of Tom Hayden, to lobbying on the Hill, meeting with President Clinton, to testifying before Congress, to seriously contemplating running for office myself, advocating on behalf of the issues I hold dear has been an essential part of my life.

Has it hurt my career? Of course it has. Americans, for the most part, prefer their entertainment figures to remain apolitical or silent. I found that impossible.

I am proudest of one fact: that I have never advocated on behalf of a position that I personally benefited from by way of lining my pockets. When an oil executive steps in front of the press to appeal for drilling on public lands or in environmentally sensitive areas, most Americans simply shrug and say, “Isn’t that their job?” However, corporate citizenship carries with it inviolable responsibilities. I have always maintained that wealthy corporations must be held accountable for the exploitation that they practice. They must give back, in some measure, as they take.

Politics in America is much changed since I walked into Hayden’s office and began helping people reduce their power bills. The US government is uglier, less effective and more expensive. America is ridiculed around the world for its dated and offensive “exceptionalism.” However I am heartened by the fact that so many non-governmental groups are carrying a message of Hope Into Action. I list some of my favorites, as well as those I support in the arts, below. Please also visit my Foundation page on this site.