Celebrated for his intensely powerful portrayals on the big screen, Forest Whitaker has earned honors that range from an Oscar to an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA award. The legendary film star has captivated audiences for decades through his leading roles in box-office hits like “The Last King of Scotland” and “The Butler,” and he’s also worked behind the camera as a producer and director.
But Whitaker’s international influence is not limited to Hollywood. He’s also working to make a lasting impact on the humanitarian landscape.
Forest Whitaker: An ambassador of peaceActor Forest Whitaker’s international influence is not limited to Hollywood. He’s also working to make a lasting impact on the humanitarian landscape. Whitaker works fervently to promote peace in places that are overcome by armed conflict and violence and he places a firm emphasis on empowering young people through his efforts.
Whitaker said he owes a great deal of his success to his mother, who raised him and his three siblings and put herself through college and graduate school completely on her own.
“I think, certainly, my mother’s work ethic and her teaching me about embracing life was important,” Whitaker said. “Some of the lessons she taught me as a kid have stuck with me for a long time – and primarily, one of the lessons about believing in something. That was something that she always tried to instill in me. As a kid, she would say that I didn’t have to believe in what she believed, but I have to believe in something. I think that, now, that permeates my life.”
Whitaker works to promote peace in places that are overcome by armed conflict. He also places a firm emphasis on empowering young people through his work.
“One of the reasons I focus a lot of my efforts on the youth is because there are critical times when people are making decisions in the formation of who they are,” Whitaker said.
As a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Peace and Reconciliation, Whitaker works to prevent young people from becoming part of devastating cycles of violence.
He also co-founded the International Institute for Peace at Rutgers University, which works with urban communities to address cutting-edge issues and implement peace-building efforts.
In 2012, the humanist also launched his own organization, the Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative.
The Initiative helps transform societies affected by destructive conflicts into safer and flourishing communities and aims to inspire people – and particularly youth – around the globe to engage in peace initiatives and conflict resolution.
Whitaker is now implementing programs in South Sudan, Uganda, and Mexico and he hopes to inspire people across the world to work toward global peace.
“One act of violence can change an entire community and it can even change a nation, but I also believe that, in some ways, acts of good can do the same,” Whitaker said.
On this episode of Full Frame, Whitaker told Mike Walter about his childhood experiences that inspired him to get involved in these efforts and the important, and powerful, lessons he’s learned in his efforts to promote peace and prevent conflict.
Follow Whitaker on Twitter to learn more about his work: @ForestWhitaker