Come graduation time, universities all over the country award honorary degrees to people they feel have stood out in their field. These are people who have contributed and made a substantial difference within their area of knowledge. As stated by James Freedman
in his book, Liberal Education and the Public Interest
, “In bestowing an honorary degree, a university makes an explicit statement to its students and the world about the qualities of character and attainment it admires most. It is a practice rich in opportunity as well as ripe for abuse” (117). The honorary degree not only allows influential people to be rewarded for their work, but it can also give credibility to a university. The degree shows the public the type of person the university admires and the type of people they wish their students to become.
At the University of Southern California
there have been many well deserving people who have received the degrees, with our rich alumni and people that have influenced our community many great people have been given this award. When thinking about who deserves this award there are many things to consider, besides the integrity of the person. According to the USC honorary degree criteria
, the degree is given, “ to honor individuals who have distinguished themselves through extraordinary achievements in scholarship, the professions, or other creative activities, whether or not they are widely known by the general public," and "to recognize exceptional acts of philanthropy to the university and/or on the national or world scene" and "to elevate the university in the eyes of the world by honoring individuals who are widely known and highly regarded for achievements in their respective fields of endeavor.” For the spring of 2007 at the University of Southern California, George Clooney
is the most well deserving person in the field fine arts to receive the honorary doctoral degree. Although at first it seems like an unconventional choice, through his use of film and his ability to speak publicly about world issues, he has become more than just actor, he has become a humanitarian. Being that the honorary recipient is supposed to encompass these qualities, George Clooney would be a perfect fit. With his humanitarian work he has become an enriched citizen who has taken his abilities and used them in an effort to help others.
In his book, Meaningful Work: Rethinking Professional Ethics,
Mike Martin claims "A life is more than outward events, and we understand persons only when we grasp the value commitments embedded in their motives, character, and worldview" (16). To Martin there are three components to attaining professional success, craft, compensation and moral concern. All three if these criteria are event in George Clooney.
When it comes to moral concern, Mr. Clooney is very aware of others around him and the kind of power that he holds. Just recently Mr. Clooney has become increasingly involved with the genocide in Darfur and is helping to raise awareness in America, with his organization Save Darfur
. When speaking on the issues, reported by ABC News
, he states, “We can all talk about this and make speeches and say this is horrible and we have to do something. But every day we don't do something, and every day this goes on, thousands of people are dying and dying horrific deaths." He later goes on to say, “This is genocide, and if everybody just got up right now out of their chair and picked up a phone and called their congressman, or called the number that registered with the president, it makes a difference. It always has." He is not just asking for our troops to go over there and take over, he is simply asking for people to realize that there are greater issues going on in the world then who one the Oscar. He truly cares about the people and is trying to make our society aware of worldy events, knowing fully well that if the people start to speak up, action will occur. He cares more about the lives of others than his million dollar salaries, being that his past two films he helped finance, and took pay cuts.
His work with Darfur does not stop just at speaking with the senate, he also took it upon himself to travel to the boarder of Chad and Darfur with his father, to get first hand knowledge of the atrocities that are happening over there. With video footage
from the trip, he only hopes that people will soon begin to realizes the horror that is occurring. Most people with his status can easily write checks to charities and use their name to make themselves look good to the public. However, with Clooney he takes it upon himself to try and make a change. He does not have to take time out of his schedule to travel to Sudan, he could easily write another check, like most celebrities.
By using his own time and money, he complements Martin's component of compensation. According to Martin, "Compensation motives are not exclusively self-interested. They may be linked to desires to support one's family or philanthropic desires to obtain resources in order to help others" (23). This is what makes him stand out from the rest. He has become a true humanitarian who is able to look beyond his fame and personal problems and see that the world needs help, and just by speaking up, he can make a difference.
George Clooney’s humanitarian work does not begin or stop with Darfur. He is also an avid supporter on the ONE campaign
that is working to stop global AIDS and poverty. "ONE believes that allocating an additional ONE percent of the U.S. budget toward providing basic needs like health, education, clean water and food would transform the futures and hopes of an entire generation in the world's poorest countries." Through this campaign Clooney, along with many other high profile celebrities, hope to use their power to help others that are less fortunate then citizens of the United States. On top of these two large scale works his is also involved with United Way
. “United Way is a national network of more than 1,300 locally governed organizations that work to create lasting positive changes in communities and people’s lives.” He is not only concerned with global issues, but problems that are right here in our country. So many communities are lacking the proper needs to help the growth of the younger generations to become respectable citizens. Through United Way these communities are getting help. Although Clooney is not involved in many organizations, the ones he is involved in he takes great time and effort to achieve success and make a difference. By being invloved with these types of organizations, he adhears to the USC standards. In the Role and Mission Statement of USC
it states, “The central mission of the University of Southern California is the development of human beings and society as a whole through the cultivation and enrichment of the human mind and spirit. The principal means by which our mission is accomplished are teaching, research, artistic creation, professional practice and selected forms of public service.” He does not take these things lightly, he truly cares about getting information out to the public so that we can help him and take a stand.
In his past two films, Syriana
and Good Night and Good Luck
, he has dealt with social issues to bring awareness to the public.
Although neither of them blatantly speaking up against our government, it is their underlying message that makes people think and question our own society. Continuing with Martin's criteria, Mr. Clooney has mastered his craft, and taken it to the next level. According to Martin the meaning of one's craft, "involves connecting our lives with wider unities" (Martin, 22). Mr. Clooney has gone from using films as just a source of entertainment to a way of expressing his issues and struggles that we are facing in today’s society. Being that he wrote and directed Good Night and Good Luck
, it gives him more creditability as an influential person in the entertainment industry. Although it is a story of the McCarthy era and the courage of one man, Edward R. Murrow, the story is still relevant today. In a time where journalists are much more reserved in what they say for fear of repercussions from their larger agencies, this film shows that it just takes one person to speak up for change to occur. This is something that Clooney is trying to accomplish. Though he is just one man, he has a lot of power in the media, when he speaks, people listen. Through this film he has been able to send the message that even though, you are one person, sometimes that is all it takes, and that if you feel strongly about something, you should pursue it.
With the film Syriana
, a story also based on one man, it shows a side of our government and the world that as spectators we are not allowed to see in full detail. As stated from the film's website
a political thriller that unfolds against the intrigues and corruption of the global oil industry. From the players brokering back-room deals in Washington to the men toiling in the oil fields of the Pursian Gulf, the film's multiple storylines weave together to illuminate the human consequences of the fierce pursuit of wealth and power." This film opens the eyes of the people even more by taking us into an event where we are able to see both sides. In a time where as a nation we are battling terrorism and war, this film is allows us to open our eyes to what the government is really doing. As citizens of the United States, there as been a lot of miss communication within our government, which is the type of story Syriana
is trying to reveal. The fact that the film revolves around the buying and selling of foreign oil, hits home even harder with our current involvement in Iraq. It would have been easy for Clooney to continue is career as a highly paid movie star who only cares about entertaining the public with one dimensional films. However, his involvement with films such as these shows that he cares about global and national issues and is trying to get the public to care as well.
One of the main things to consider when thinking about issuing this award, is the type of speech this person will give to the students at commencement. There are many people who could potentially deserve this award, but being able to address the students and leave them with a feeling of contentment, it is a hard thing to do. The honorary degree recipient should be able to deliver a message, one that is representative of the university. Come time for the commencement speech, Mr. Clooney would excel. Being that he is an actor, he is used to speaking in front of people. He has incredible charisma which would shine in a setting such as a commencement address. In his speech there would be jokes and stories about him and his career, but there would also be incredible inspiration. Following from the Role and Mission
statement " USC is pluralistic, welcoming outstanding men and women of every race, creed and background." Talking to the young people who will soon be running the country, Clooney would probably speak about making the world a better place, for us to be aware of other countries and their struggles. His speech would be one of many messages. Because he is an actor, it would be entertaining and engaging, and because he is a humanitarian it would be worldly and stimulate the minds of the newly graduated.
As years go by and the quest for a honorary recipient continues, there are times that the person chosen is unqualified, to those in the past. “The original purpose of honoring distinguished personal achievement has widely been modified - some would say blighted - by institutional desires to flatter generous donors and prospective benefactors to whom more relaxed standards (typically pecuniary) are typically applied” (Freedman, 126). Many people may feel this way about honoring George Clooney. At a first glance he is not the typical honoree which may cause people to second guess his achievements that cause him to deserve this award. There are many people who will think that this movie star bachelor is undeserving. When you think of George Clooney the first thing that comes to mind, for women at least, is that he is handsome. The next thing are his films, most of them not awarding winning masterpieces, rather films of pure entertainment, with exception to his most recent. They will not see his other humanitarian side, or they will disagree with his politics. Although these are all qualities that a university must consider when choosing an
honoree, what one must look at is that he is first and for most an actor, that is his profession. He has taken upon himself to use his celebrity status for good. Being that he is able to easily get in the public eye, he has used this authority to open the eyes of many people and shown them that the world has many problems. He has been able to use his status to show the country to look outside of the American bubble to the horrendous problems that millions of people are facing everyday. When looking back at our past honorees, there are of course the noble prize winners and the distinguished members of the community, but there are also the Steven Spielbergs and the John Williams who have made great contributions to the film industry. Clooney has not only done this, but has taken it one step further and has become an influential humanitarian.
The Spring of 2007 is the year of George Clooney. It is apparent that he deserves this award. He truly encompasses the qualities that the University of Southern California hold true to their ethics
, “A commitment to discharging our obligations to others in a fair and honest manner, and a commitment to respecting the rights and dignity of all persons.” He is not the shallow Hollywood star who basks in his millions and throws money away. He is a respectable citizen, not only of the United States, but of the global community. His fight to help others is pure and his only goal is to make these issues of genocide and poverty aware to the general public so that we will then speak up and help. He is not asking for more fame and fortune, rather a world that can come together as one and help with these global issues.