George Clooney in Sudan

George Clooney hosts the Hope for Haiti Now telethon Friday and has been a vocal advocate for Darfur, the heroes of 9/11, and arts education. View our gallery of the A-lister in action.

Sherren Zorba, UNAMID / AP Photo

Lynsey Addario / VII Network for Newsweek

Fighting for Change in Sudan

George Clooney has again proven himself as more valuable than the throwaway label of “Sexiest Man Alive.” Although his friends and fellow A-listers Bono and Angelina Jolie have largely been recognized in Hollywood for their humanitarian work, Clooney has quietly spent the last decade giving generously of his time and money to countless charitable organizations and fighting the crisis in Darfur. Here, George Clooney and US human rights activist John Prendergast walk through a camp for South Sudanese returnees from North Sudan in anticipation of the referendum to separate North and South Sudan, in Abyei, South Sudan, January 7, 2011.

Lynsey Addario/ VII Network for Newsweek

Hollywood actor George Clooney walks through a camp for South Sudanese returnees from North Sudan in anticipation of the referendum to separate North and South Sudan, in Abyei, South Sudan, January 7, 2011.

Toby Canham / Getty Images; Dave M. Benett / Getty Images; Jason Merritt / Getty Images

Hope for Haiti Now

The two-hour Hope for Haiti Now telethon featured stars and performers from Justin Timberlake to Taylor Swift, but one man has emerged as the face of the Hollywood movement to help the people of Haiti afflicted by the catastrophic earthquake. Clooney’s organization, Not On Our Watch, has already pledged to donate $1 million for emergency relief.


9/11 Outreach

By far the most successful of George Clooney’s charitable efforts, America: A Tribute to Heroes raised over $100 million and was viewed by nearly 60 million viewers in the wake of the devastating September 11th attacks. In just seven days, Clooney gathered the overwhelming support of dozens of celebrities for the benefit concert, which included Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson, Mariah Carey, and Billy Joel. “Too many people wanted in,” the event’s producer Joel Gallen said. “I was asking myself ‘What do I do with all these people?’” Enter Clooney, who suggested celebrities answer phones and speak directly to donors, resulting in Julia Roberts, Jack Nicholson, and Tom Cruise manning the phone bank and encouraging the public to donate. All proceeds from the special and DVD sale were given to the United Way’s September 11 Telethon Fund.


Tsunami Aid

Three years after its 9/11 counterpart, Tsunami Aid: A Concert of Hope aired on NBC and NBC Universal channels on January 15, 2005. Clooney, one of the event’s main organizers, was behind the phones with Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Halle Berry to raise money for the victims of the disastrous Indian Ocean 9.1 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami that killed nearly 230,000 people and affected 14 countries. With performances by Madonna, Sheryl Crow, Christina Aguilera, John Mayer, and Stevie Wonder, it’s no surprise the telethon brought in $18.3 million for the Red Cross from over 19 million total viewers. “Our job—all of us—is, in the position we’re in, to try to do whatever we can to save as many lives as we can by raising money,” Clooney said in the days leading up to the event. “This isn’t in any way self-serving. Everyone who is here is pretty famous—they’re not looking to get on camera. Why they’re really doing this is this is the worst natural event we’ve ever seen in my lifetime.”

Mannie Garcia / AP Photo; Stan Honda / AP Photo

Political Activist

George Clooney reportedly purchased his famous Lake Como palace from the Kerry-Heinz family, but his association with Massachusetts senator and presidential hopeful John Kerry did not end there. The actor has donated $5,000 to the DNC and a total of $57,700 to Democratic causes since 2003, including contributions to the campaigns for Kerry, Al Franken, Barbara Boxer, his father Nick Clooney (who ran for Congress in 2004), and Barack Obama. “My father ran for Congress,” Clooney said back in 2006. “But… everything was categorized as Hollywood versus the heartland, and I actually hurt him, as he was running as a Democrat in Kentucky.” The Oscar winner has since been hesitant about proclaiming his political support publicly, even during the 2008 election. “I could do damage to Obama. So, I don’t necessarily know [that] saying I back him is helpful,” he said, but quietly donated $2,300 to Obama’s presidential campaign.

Nick Ut / AP Photo

Reaching Out to Writers

When the Writers Guild of America strike in 2008 wreaked havoc on the entertainment industry and resulted in the cancellation of the Golden Globes ceremony, Clooney came forward with a $25,000 donation to the Actors Fund, an organization that gave grants to workers who were in dire financial straits and needed help buying food or paying their mortgages because of the strike. “My hope is that people who can afford it will take responsibility for this and help out,” he told Variety in the middle of the real Hollywood drama. “This felt like the right place, because the Actors Fund is the most inclusive. It helps writers, and everyone from craft services workers to agency assistants who have been laid off.” Clooney also gave the WGA an invaluable offer and said he would act as a mediator between guild representatives and the business side of Hollywood. His panel never came to fruition, however, as both writers guilds reached an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The strike ended—but not before costing Los Angeles and the entertainment world hundreds of millions of dollars. After the WGA ordeal, Clooney revealed he had been a Financial Core member (meaning he only paid dues, but could not participate in any capacity) over a snubbed writing credit for his work on the script for Leatherheads.

Courtesy of Realizing the Dream

Realizing the Dream

Though it’s actually the actor’s father, Nick Clooney, who sits on the advisory board of the Realizing the Dream charity, it was George who used his Ocean’s 13 premiere as an opportunity to promote the nonprofit organization, which works to enact the legacy and work of Dr. Martin Luther King through nonviolence initiatives. Clooney hosted the Realizing the Dream Celebrity Auction in 2007 and offered a private afterparty benefiting the charity. Proof that star power helps—Florida resident Carol Busse reportedly lodged the winning bid of $51,750. “I’m a Clooney fan, but I also realized this is a great charity and wanted to get involved,” Busse said. “It’s a win-win situation.”

Pier Paolo Cito / AP Photo

Not On Our Watch

A favorite of George Clooney’s charity efforts is Not On Our Watch, an organization he founded in 2007 with Ocean’s 11 costar Don Cheadle and producer Jerry Weintraub. With additional backing from Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, and David Pressman, Not On Our Watch “focus[es] global attention and resources toward putting an end to mass atrocities around the world,” according to its mission statement. Despite his generous efforts, Clooney said he could still do more to aid the suffering Sudanese region when he and Cheadle were honored with the Peace Summit Award given by Nobel laureates, including former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and the Dalai Lama, in 2007. “Don and I... stand here before you as failures,” Clooney said. “The simple truth is that when it comes to the atrocities in Darfur those people are not better off now than they were years ago. The murders continue, the rapes continue and some two and a half million refugees are yet to go home.” But his organization continues to give in the hope of enacting change. In 2008, Not On Our Watch, which currently supplies aid and advocacy to the imperiled populations of Sudan, Burma, and Zimbabwe, donated $500,000 to a U.N. food agency, and has raised millions for the region. Other efforts include supporting 24-hour health clinics and donating grants to expand health care for 100,000 victims of the Darfur crisis.

AP Photo

Documenting Darfur

George Clooney continued to fight against the war in Darfur in a way familiar to him—through film. In the same year he helped found Not On Our Watch, Clooney narrated and co-executive produced Sand and Sorrow, an HBO documentary on the crisis, directed by Peabody Award winner Paul Freedman. Through the guidance of an impassioned trio—human-rights activist John Prendergast, Harvard professor Samantha Power, and New York Times columnist Nick Kristof—viewers saw the unimaginable struggles of Darfur, where more than 200,000 have died and 2.5 million have been from their homes. Clooney’s narration, Variety reviewed, “settles into an appropriately earnest explication of the situation, calibrating disbelief with a controlled sense of emotional indignation.”

Andrew Medichini / AP Photo (1); Getty Images (3)

ONE Supporter

Under the direction of U2’s Bono (perhaps the undisputed king of celebrity do-gooding), the ONE campaign works to end world poverty by increasing government funding for international aid programs. Clooney has been a longtime supporter of ONE, donating time and money to the grassroots cause that also fights against the AIDS pandemic and advocates for clean water, debt relief and increasing the international affairs budget. In 2006, the organization highlighted Clooney—along with Ellen DeGeneres, Will Smith, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Sean “Diddy” Combs—as ONE supporters who made that year’s Time list of the top 100 people transforming the world. Clooney also managed to put aside his political differences and recruit right-wing televangelist Pat Robertson for the campaign and traveled to the G-8 Summit with Bono in 2005.

John Falls / Getty Images

United Way

Besides sitting on the board of trustees for United Way for America, Clooney famously donated his 2006 Oscars swag bag for the organization to auction. The loot, which included a BlackBerry, a two-night stay in Carmel, California, and arrived in a Dooney & Bourke suitcase with a hand-written note from Clooney, sold for $45,100. “George does this all the time,” his rep said regarding the donation. “Other people need it, and the money goes to a good cause.” In the wake of the disaster in New Orleans in 2005, Clooney made a $1 million donation to the United Way Hurricane Katrina Response Fund. And as the national spokesperson for United Way’s 2-1-1, the phone number which provides free and confidential information regarding food, housing, employment, health care, and counseling, Clooney also lent his voice to the large coalition that advocates for education and health of children and families.

Protecting Privacy

When George Clooney got wind of Gawker’s “Gawker Stalker” feature (where fans post real-time sightings of celebrities), the privacy-protective actor declared war. His spokesman sent out an email to major publicists asking them to post fake alerts. “There is a simple way to render these guys useless. Flood their Web site with bogus sightings,” Clooney himself wrote. “No need to try to create new laws restricting free speech…That’s the fun of it.” Gawker responded by starting a contest and awarded the first camera-phone photo of Clooney with free DVDs. The incident, one of many in Clooney’s history of supporting the First Amendment while railing on the paparazzi culture, was not a complete victory, as Gawker Stalker still exists.

Koji Sasahara / AP Photo

Whatever It Takes

Whatever It Takes is an initiative dedicated to preserving the arts and art education that has amassed over 660 high-profile leaders, including Nobel Peace Prize laureates, royalty, and, of course, George Clooney. The charity is in the midst of a massive fundraising drive and has raised over $3 million to date, primarily from the sale of artwork by its supporters. Stars from Kanye West to Giorgio Armani to David Bowie have contributed at least a self-portrait and Paul McCartney and Coldplay support the organization. Clooney’s self-portrait, including his message of hope “…by any means!” was printed on a mug and various products found at Bloomingdale’s, with proceeds going to the 21st Century Leaders and CARE International.

Alessandra Tarantino / AP Photo

Shining a Light

George Clooney managed to upstage one of the biggest political meetings of the year at the G-8 summit, which took place in the earthquake-ravaged town of L’Aquila, Italy, featuring a host of presidents and prime ministers. To attract attention to the plight of those affected by the 6.8 magnitude earthquake which killed 307 people, the first ladies of the G-8 nations (Michelle Obama included) took part in a photo-op tour around the damaged areas. Just a few hours later, however, Clooney arrived via helicopter and police-escorted motorcade. Accompanied by Bill Murray, Clooney announced that he would be filming a movie in the area later that year to help boost its economic recovery. Clooney spoke with reporters, visited residents of a makeshift tent camp, and kept the focus on the subject at hand. “The important thing right now is not to dilute our focus. And the focus is right here, right now,” Clooney said at the summit.). “It seems very important to focus attention on an area so ravaged by the earthquake and if my presence gets media attention, I'm happy.”

Read more: The Daily Mail

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Major Recognition

In January 2008, Clooney earned a title far more valuable than “Sexiest Man Alive” when he was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace for his extensive work in Darfur. He and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel also met with members of the U.N. Security Council in 2006. “I am deeply honored to receive this appointment,” Clooney said in a statement after the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announced his designation. “I look forward to working with the United Nations in order to build public support for its critically important work in some of the most difficult, dangerous and dire places in the world.”

Miguel Villagran / AP Photo

A Heart for Children

Proving Clooney’s internationally recognized reputation as an all-around charitable guy is his Golden Heart Award, which the actor received in Berlin at a gala telethon celebrating German advertising agency Axel Springer’s charity A Heart for Children. The telethon brought in €15 million (about $21 million). Clooney claimed that he only accepts awards to focus attention on the causes he supports. Deferring any personal greatness, Clooney told a German newspaper, “You know, people are just too nice to me. If I had something to do with the end of the Sudan conflict then OK. But it’s not over, we haven’t been successful yet. That is why I want to hand over the ‘Golden Heart’ to people who risk their lives every day.”

A Heart for Children