George Clooney, other stars advance U.N. mission

By Laurie Bennett

February 2, 2008 at 12:20pm

It’s not the first time the Russians have gotten worked up over the culture of American celebrity.

But they’ve met a formidable foe in George Clooney. The handsome, publicity-savvy, immensely likeable man-about-the-world is the newest U.N. messenger of peace.

After a visit to Darfur, Clooney was scheduled to address a group of international leaders to discuss the conditions encountered by peacekeeping forces in Sudan.

However, Russia and several other countries objected to a Hollywood movie star telling them how to manage a crisis in Africa, and his invitation to speak was withdrawn.

Instead, Clooney talked to reporters, who gave his views much more coverage than he likely would have received from the U.N. session.

That, in a way, is exactly the mission of the peace messenger program, which asks well-known figures from the arts and sports worlds to focus worldwide attention on the U.N.’s work.

Clooney, in his public appearances and often in his selection of films, has been an advocate for liberal causes. Along with several of his co-stars in Ocean’s 11, is a founder of Not on Our Watch, an organization that is working to stop the violence in Darfur.

Other messengers of hope also have been chosen for their contributions to humanitarian causes. Current representatives include Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, conductor Daniel Barenboim, actor Michael Douglas, primatologist Jane Goodall, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and Nobel peace prize winner Elie Wiesel.

Muhammad Ali and musician Wynton Marsalis are former designees.

The peace messenger program isn’t the only U.N. endeavor that calls on celebrities to help spread the word. Actress Tea Leoni is an ambassador for UNICEF and a board member of the organization’s U.S. Fund.

For Leoni, the U.N. is a family affair. Her father, attorney Anthony Pantaleoni, also sits on the U.S. Fund board. Her grandmother, silent film actress Helenka Adamowska Pantaleoni, once headed the committee.

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