Washington Listens to Who?

I heard that this week the White House held a conference on mental health and invited Glenn Close and Bradley Cooper to participate. Why? Because Glenn Close has a sister who is bipolar and Bradley Cooper recently portrayed someone who was bipolar in a movie. I get Glenn Close because she's dealing with it personally and has been advocating for a number of years. Bradley? Hmm.

This isn't the first time Washington has reached to the stars for understanding of issues (some deep, some not so deep). Michael J. Fox, George Clooney, Charlton Heston, Mr. Rogers, Elmo, Mike Ditka, Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, and Tony Bennett are a few of the celebrity witnesses that have testified at Congressional Hearings about any number of issues. Sometimes it was because they had personal experience (such as Michael J. Fox and Parkinson's) and sometimes because they have an interest in the cause (such as George Clooney and the Sudan).

It gives me a reason to pause though. Does their testimony have more weight just because they are "stars"? What about the hundreds of volunteers, or scientists, or patients involved with disease and global issues? Why don't we listen to them? What makes a "star" more reliable or accountable?

I am convicted that I don't treat people the same. I'll listen to Michael J. Fox talk about Parkinson's because I used to watch him on television and he was such a cutie - but I have no interest in listening to a friend's mother with Parkinson's disease.

I am not saying these celebrities shouldn't use their star power to bring to light the various causes they have embraced - but I am saying that I (perhaps we) shouldn't give more attention to their words than others who are involved in the same causes. Or at the very least we should be willing to at least listen to those around us.

Something to think about.

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