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Jet Li, seller of 'crazy' dreams
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By Pang Li
staff reporter

On November 2, international movie star Jet Li confirmed that he would take no more lead roles in movies until his One Foundation is firmly on track. Supporting roles that require him on set for couple of weeks will be acceptable. For the time being making movies will become a hobby, while the One Foundation will be his life, he said firmly.

Jet Li addresses the forum. [China.org.cn]

Jet Li addresses the forum. [China.org.cn]

What is up with Mr. Li? What sense does it make for a movie star of his status to give up his career? That's what a lot of other people may be thinking. But they are wrong--it makes a lot of sense. Mr. Li wants to take on the serious responsibility of enhancing philanthropic awareness throughout the world, and especially in his mother land. This represents a major development in social reform--one of the hardest challenges in society is to create a shift in the public mindset.

With his great initiative, extensive network of social connections, and communication skills, Jet Li seems to be the ideal man for the job.

Mr. Li's words are emphatic and touching. At the two-day China Global Philanthropy Forum he described himself as "the world's biggest beggar and its craziest man". As to the "beggar" part, he said he is dedicated to begging everyone on this planet to wake up and show the natural-born kindness buried in their hearts. As for the "crazy" part, he would use any possible means to reach out to everyone and convince them, he said.

When big names such as Bill Clinton and Tony Blair pay tribute to Mr. Li, real credibility is added to the movie star's plans.

Mr. Li does not talk like a saint. He relates all his motives to personal experiences, especially to the death of his mother.

"My mother was hospitalized for terminal cancer in 2000 when I was shooting a film in France. I flew back to Beijing immediately after I was informed by my older sister. I criticized her for not telling me earlier, but she said that my mother had forbidden her, as she knew I had always been afraid of seeing dead people. At the time I was 37 years old, but in my mother's eyes I was still a small child. Standing by my mother's bed, I told her that I was back. A whole day passed but mother did not say a word to me. Finally I asked if she had anything to say to me. Slowly drawing a breath, she said, 'It is just a matter of a breath.' She said no more afterwards. Her words made me think hard for a long time. After that, I made a promise to her that I would dedicate the rest of my life to all the mothers in this world and the entire human race. Yes, human life is a just a matter of a breath. Years later, a narrow escape from the Asian tsunami again caused me to think about life. Life is such a fragile thing that misfortune can strike any of us, no matter who we are. We should constantly care for and help each other. It has become my dream, as one who grew up on the very land of Beijing, to promote this idea." His words even moved some listeners to tears.

Mr. Li described his One Foundation as a platform to optimize philanthropic resources, rather than an organization dedicated to addressing problems in one particular area. The foundation will enhance the sense of philanthropy throughout society and provide opportunities to specialists from different fields to join hands and make the world a better place. This will certainly promote the development of China's social sector, which, still in its infancy, urgently needs support and guidance.

Mr. Li's actions speak even louder than his words. After the devastating earthquake that hit Sichuan Province in May, the One Foundation helped to ensure that hundreds of thousands of dollars were used effectively. Mr. Li rushed to the quake-stricken areas again and again to supervise his staff's work and console victims.

This is a major change for the actor's image. In the mid-1990s when Jet Li established himself as an A-list star in Asia, he made very few public appearances. In a rare interview at the time, he said that movies were his whole life and he had no interest in appearing in commercials. A lot of people might have supposed him very shy.

In late 1990s he began to be seen in TV commercials, but not often. During those years, he gave many more interviews and began to talk about his family, his films and his first failed marriage. He answered questions directly and honestly. Once he had developed his charity idea, he missed no opportunity to promote it. Now he is constantly in the spotlight. His interviews and speeches are to be found everywhere. The action star has truly become a public figure.

Certainly there is a long way for Mr. Li to go. He says that he expects to devote 20 or 30 years to changing people's attitudes to charity. There remains the question whether people will want to buy what he has to sell. Let us wait, hope, and see.

(China.org.cn November 5, 2008)


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