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Top Five Celebrity Activists: Lady Gaga and a Palin, Too

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Star power goes a long way.

Celebrities can often shed light, or make a big impact, on a cause or an issue in ways that even the best public relations campaign simply cannot.

During World War II, Hollywood stars promoted war bonds, rationing and Victory gardens. These days, they take to social media and television to get their points across on myriad issues affecting the world.

Five celebrities who made a difference this year:

Lady Gaga: The pop superstar dipped her toe into celebrity activism in 2009 when she appeared at the National Equality March in Washington. But in 2010, Lady Gaga chose full-body immersion. She took on “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” and encouraged her “Little Monster” fans to make a ruckus by calling elected officials and asking them to repeal the law. For many Millennials, Lady Gaga’s call to action was the first time they realized that they could even call a senator.

The fashion diva, who took heat from PETA for a costume made from meat, also lambasted Arizona’s immigration law and took on the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church when the hate group protested her St. Louis concert. Her solution: Embrace them with love and peace.

How did she motivate her fans to action? Via Facebook and Twitter. Lady Gaga rules social media with more followers and fans than any politician, including President Barack Obama.

Expect the 25-year-old Lady Gaga to continue her fight for GLBT rights in 2011 as her third studio album will be called “Born This Way.”

Sean Penn: Academy Award-winner Sean Penn went beyond the extra charitable mile in 2010. When Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake in January, Penn didn’t just write a check to a relief agency. Instead, he started his own organization and ventured to the ravaged country.

And he decided to stay.

Penn became a camp manager for the International Organization of Migration at Petionville, one of the most complex temporary camps in Haiti. The IOM is the United Nations agency responsible for camp management and coordination. He also traveled to Washington to testify at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on rebuilding Haiti.

In December, Penn, 50, even skipped out of a fancy Dubai film festival where he was to receive a lifetime achievement award to return to Haiti because of concerns regarding the safety of his staff. He received the “Hollywood Humanitarian Award” at the Hollywood Awards for his “selfless” efforts.

Penn continues to stress the importance of medical supplies and doctors as the country battles cholera. He’s not going anywhere, he says. In fact, Penn has recently vowed to spend years in Haiti until the country is stable.

Michelle Obama: Like first ladies before her, Michelle Obama has a cause — childhood obesity. Sure, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Bill Clinton were pushing the issue long before Obama got on the scene, but she took the issue to a new level. She launched “Let’s Move,” a program to “raise a healthier generation of kids.”

She has called obesity a “national security threat” and an epidemic. Last year, she created a White House garden to show how easy it is to raise healthy food. She kicked off 2010 by speaking to the U.S. Conference of Mayors about the issue. This month, Obama celebrated a win when her husband signed into the law the child nutrition bill for which she strongly lobbied. The first lady isn’t above showing her hula-hooping skills or practicing with NFL teams to show kids how to exercise and get outside.

Her obesity campaign recently got Sarah Palin’s attention.

On her TLC reality television show, Palin said, “Where are the s’mores ingredients? This is in honor of Michelle Obama, who said the other day we should not have dessert.” In fact, Obama said, “The problem is when things get out of balance, when dessert is practically a food group.”

In turn, Huckabee, a former overweight diabetic who wrote a book about his weight battle, came to Obama’s defense. Don’t expect Michelle Obama to back down on the issue. She plans to make the battle against childhood obesity her White House legacy.

Bristol Palin: She tangoed her way into the consciousness of just about every American household this year on “Dancing With The Stars.” But she also did her fair share of advocacy against teen pregnancy. Palin was 17 and unmarried when she became pregnant.

In May, Palin appeared in a public service announcement for The Candie’s Foundation, an offshoot of the clothing brand that promotes awareness of teen pregnancy. In 2009, she was named an ambassador for the foundation.

During her “DWTS” appearance, Palin filmed another PSA promoting safe sex for the foundation with Jersey Shore star and fellow DWTS contestant, The Situation. He promotes condoms, Palin promotes abstinence.

In December, Keith Olbermann called Bristol Palin “the worst person in the world” because she preaches abstinence to teens even though she was an unwed teenager when she became a mom.
Palin pulled a Lady Gaga and took to her Facebook page to defend herself. She wrote: “In order to have credibility as a spokesperson, it sometimes takes a person who has made mistakes. Parents warn their children about the mistakes they made so they are not repeated. Former gang members travel to schools to educate teenagers about the risks of gang life.”

Palin graduated out of her teens this year but is likely to continue her abstinence message into her 20s. That is unless she finds a new cause.

Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder, Natalie Maines and Patti Smith: Collectively, these four kindred spirits came together in of all places, Little Rock, Ark., to shed light on the West Memphis Three – Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley, Jr.

While teenagers, the three were charged with the murders of three 8-year-old boys, whose bodies were found in 1993 naked and bound in West Memphis, Ark. For the last 17 years, the three have been trying to get the Arkansas courts to retry the case. Echols sits on Arkansas Death Row. The other two men are serving life sentences.

Vedder and Depp have long been supporters of the West Memphis Three. Only this year, however, did Depp decide to become more vocal publicly about the case. Depp appeared on “48 Hours” to plead for a new trial and pulled his friend, punk goddess Patti Smith, into the project.

In August, Vedder, along with Arkansas Take Action advocates, led the charge to organize a concert to shed light on the need for new hearings in the case. Depp, Maines and Smith appeared. Depp read poems written by Echols and also sang and played guitar. Maines, too, performed, and Smith closed the evening with her classics.

The celeb firepower may have just worked.

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled in November to allow new evidentiary hearings for the West Memphis Three.

Move Over, Barack Obama: Sasha and Malia Should Write Their Own Book

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It’s an official presidential Catch-22.

Parents who are politicians face an eternal struggle — forging a proper path between possibly exploiting their children for votes versus completely shielding them from scrutiny.

Barack and Michelle Obama have always stressed that they want their daughters, Malia and Sasha, to have a normal childhood. Well, as normal as two girls can have living in the most famous house in Washington, enjoying vacations on Martha’s Vineyard, and meeting celebs like teen heartthrob Justin Bieber.

The two first daughters are seldom in the spotlight. Their school events are closed to the press. Reporters who travel with the president are placed in holding pens far away from the first daughters. The reporters seldom even catch a glimpse of the kids to know whether they are wearing J. Crew, funky kicks or trendy Silly Bandz, those rubber bracelets that kids in Malia and Sasha’s age group adore.

With so much ado about privacy, why did Barack Obama decide to put two girls on the cover of his forthcoming children’s book, “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters?” The book, aimed at children age 3 and up, is tribute to 13 Americans, including artist Georgia O’Keeffe, baseball legend Jackie Robinson, and George Washington.

According to Politics Daily’s Lynn Sweet, Malia and Sasha will be represented on the cover in an impressionistic image by children’s illustrator Loren Long, who produced the art in the 40-page book.

The cover is viewed as hypocritical to some.

Washington Examiner’s Bryon York wrote in a post titled “Obama’s kids are so off-limits they’re on the cover of his new book,” that Obama has both observed and ignored the daughters’ off-limit rule. York recounts that in August 2009, a nutrition advocacy group placed posters in Washington featuring a young girl – not either Obama daughter. The caption read: “President Obama’s daughters get healthy school lunches. Why don’t I?” The White House soon called asking that the posters be taken down.

Obama’s opponents, from the Tea Party to Glenn Beck, will likely have a field day with the new book, believing Obama has given them permission to discuss Sasha and Malia. They will rationalize: If Obama can do it, why can’t we?

Obama often mentions his children in speeches. The latest time was on Tuesday in a back-to-school speech in Philadelphia. Obama told middle school students at Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School, “Over the past few weeks, Michelle and I have been getting Sasha and Malia ready for school. And they’re excited about it. I’ll bet they had the same feelings that you do — you’re a little sad to see the summer go, but you’re also excited about the possibilities of a new year.”

When Bill Clinton was president, Scholastic published a book “Dear Chelsea: Letters from kids and what it’s like to live in the White House.” The 1994 paperback cover featured a picture of Chelsea wearing braces with her trademark flowing curly hair along with a picture of Socks the Cat. The editor, Judy Goldberg, asked children to write to Chelsea; excerpts from the 12,000 letters became a book that also featured facts about the White House and presidential history.

Perhaps the Obama girls should be trailblazers and write their own book. After all, they are the first black children to live in the White House. Sure, they didn’t ask to live there, but they have a beautiful story to tell. Imagine how enlightening such a book could be for so many children. Like their father, they, too, could donate their royalties to charity. (Obama has said he will donate proceeds to a scholarship fund for military children with a parent who was killed or disabled.)

Parents know what’s best for their children. The Obamas strive for normalcy in the most abnormal of worlds. It pays in this age of blogs and 24/7 media for the couple to keep tight control on the coverage of Malia and Sasha. One awkward move by the daughters and Obama’s critics would manufacture a hateful controversy that would unfairly spin for days.

But it would be worth the gamble for the Obamas to loosen up just a tad on the press blackout cloaking Malia and Sasha. Malia and Sasha could be fantastic role models for other kids, showing them how to garden or feed the homeless. And they might just neutralize some of the harsh criticism facing Obama during midterm elections.

Written by suziparker1313

March 8, 2011 at 9:17 pm