Search This Blog

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ashley Judd and Public Service

Actress Ashley Judd recently earned a graduate degree at Harvard. The New York Times explains:

Ms. Judd, who plays tough-yet-vulnerable women on Broadway and in film (“Double Jeopardy,” “The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood”), has spent the last year in the midcareer master’s program in public administration at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Hollywood has always had its share of activists — from Ronald Reagan and Warren Beatty to Madonna and Angelina Jolie. But Ms. Judd is one of the few to get formal training in public service.

She hardly lacks for causes. She has delivered impassioned speeches to the United Nations General Assembly about sex- and labor-trafficking, and to the National Press Club about mountaintop-removal mining in Kentucky, her home state. She is a board member of PSI, a global health organization where she has worked on issues like maternal health, family planning and malaria prevention.

During her travels in developing countries, she has met women who support themselves with native handicrafts. But it was Martha Chen, one of her Harvard instructors, who taught her the concept of the “informal economy” that exists beyond the regulated economy.

Ms. Judd says she attended Harvard not for the prestige — “compare, despair,” she says — but to become a more effective activist. “I didn’t go to Harvard Kennedy School to be approved of by anyone, but to immerse myself in some very serious, earnest, practical learning with people who have literally dedicated all they have to public service.”

(She is not the only Hollywood figure with such a degree. Actor Peter Falk earned his MPA at Syracuse University's Maxwell School, albeit before his acting career.)

In this video, Ms. Judd talks about the International Violence Against Women Act: