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Sean Penn

July 23, 2010

I should state right off the bat that I have no disdain for celebrity check-writers. They’ve got money, they see a tragedy, they write a check. That’s awesome, I say. Far better than I saw a tragedy and bought an $800 sweater.

The photo-op people who visit the sites and then write a check because quietly doing good isn’t good PR, well, that’s sort of lame. The cameras stay on the celebrity instead of the people suffering. Not especially helpful.

And then there’s Sean Penn. I’ve heard a lot of people try to lump him into that photo-op category. It could have been, but the guy seriously hasn’t left.

In the weeks following the earthquake, he was so involved that he was ASKED to stay and run a relief camp. This isn’t just a ceremonial position, throwing out the first pitch and attending dinners. This is hands-on meetings about how people will eat, where they will live, driving dying children from hospital to hospital looking for a place with meds. This is real life.

Penn’s camp has been so organized that it has been criticized for being too well run. There is a belief that people will refuse to leave once they build new homes for them. I suspect it will be more of a case of people going off to their new homes and then going back during the day to the camp for aid, but that doesn’t mean Penn should do a weaker job. Just that someone else needs to do theirs better.

I don’t really know much about Sean Penn. Thought he was brilliant in Milk, but I don’t really follow his career. All I can say is that this is a guy who has put his money, his time, his comfort, his public persona into direct hands-on help. He’s definitely not “just another celebrity looking for the photo op.”

Easy to sit at home and make those types of criticisms. I don’t think the Haitian people are making them.

Click here to help Sean Penn’s J/P Haitian Relief Organization.

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