Parked in the intersection of politics and pop culture is the celebrity activist. There all kinds of ways celebrities get involved in causes from serving on boards to inspiring laws on Capitol Hill, and Tom Sheridan knows how to harness that fame and make the issue the real star. A lobbyist based in DC, he represents Bono and his work on the ONE campaign against global poverty. We sat down with him this week ahead of the big ONE event Kanye is headlining to benefit the organization here at the convention, and we couldn't have been more impressed. Tom Sheridan is using the intersection of fame and charity to inspire real change and a legion of committed issue advocates.
Can celebrities distract from an issue or a message? What are the hallmarks of a happy marriage between celebrity and activism?
It really comes down to two Cs. One is commitment and the other is credibility. I think if we go with alliteration and add in celebrity, I think that is where people will discern the difference between a celebrity using an issue to distract and/or promote themselves. There may be a fair trade in that but it doesn't always sustain a cause, and it doesn't get to the level of a policy change that we look for celebrities to engage in.
Well, we see celebrities speaking out on issues all the time. Is that enough to motivate change?
To see his answer,
We're not interested in a 15-minute hearing on Capitol Hill with some press, that's not that difficult to achieve frankly, and you don't actually need any talent from people like me to achieve that. The question then becomes, "what for?" And that's where commitment and credibility become really important factors. Are they willing to sustain their interest in this, and what does that sustaining interest mean, and how much time does that take?
How much time does it take, and how does that help a cause?
Celebrities work, and like Bono, he's got a rather significant day job. Bono was at the convention four years ago [for ONE] and he's not here this year because he's recording an album, you know that's the day job, but the fact remains four years later he's still involved. It's very much taking the cult of ONE and not doing the predictable stuff with it that gives him both long-term commitment because he has great motivation to stay in this for a long time, and has been in it for a long time. I've been working with him for almost eight years. He's been at this for a long time and there's no one out there that doesn't believe that he's not only committed to it but that he's incredibly credible on the topic.
To see who else Tom Sheridan works with and how committed celebs inspire real change, check out part two of our interview with him later this week!