Trip to Bangkok, 12 November 2009

After completing the Operation Smile trip to Hanoi, Vietnam, I immediately flew to Thailand to participate in an event for the International Peace Foundation called Bridges: Dialogues Toward a Culture of Peace. I was very honored to be asked to participate in this event.

My first stop was to give a speech at the International School of Thailand. I was there as a representative of the entertainment world and it was my job to talk to the students about using art and culture to encourage peace. I am not a professional speaker, especially in English, and because of that, when Iím invited to speak at different places, I usually decline. But when I found out that this invitation was to talk about peace, I immediately agreed to go.

The International Peace Foundation wanted me to talk about "Arts and culture as a pathway towards peace." I thought about it a long time; I thought about what I could say to these students. I am just a regular person, I'm not a scholar or a diplomat. What could I tell them? Finally, I decided to talk about how I use my movies to try to send positive messages. I told them that when I was filming Rumble in the Bronx, I was very worried when I heard that the casting department wanted to use black people as the bad guys in the film. I told them no; that I wanted the bad guys to be Asian, white, black, all races. I did not want to perpetuate the stereotypes that we always see in films. I want people to realize that anyone can be a bad guy and anyone can be good guy so they will not build up prejudices and hatred.

I know that when I began making movies, I was sending the wrong message to the fans. After I made Drunken Master, I saw some little kids imitating me, pretending to get drunk and fight. I knew that I was sending the wrong message, so I corrected myself in my later movies. I made a mistake with Drunken Master, and I tried to show this when I made Drunken Master 2. I wanted the fans to know that getting drunk and fighting is wrong. For every movie I've made since the early days, I have added in some kind of message, either in the dialogue or in the action of the characters. In fact, we are beginning to gather together all of my "movie messages" and plan to put them into one film reel. I hope that someday I will be able to show that to people so they will see that my films are not just about comedy or big stunts.

As a celebrity, I feel that I have a responsibility to use my fame to spread the word about human suffering. I told the students about my frustration with journalists who only report gossip and stories about the personal lives of celebrities. Who cares!? I hope that if there are any young people who are thinking about becoming reporters, they will remember what I said. Report on the real issues in our world; take a camera and go find the sad stories and the inspiring stories. Never mind the gossip.

I truly hope that through the influence of being a celebrity and also through the fans, we'll be able to spread the message of love from one person to another. Some famous people might say that their influence isnít very big, but if one person influences another or just one person helps another person, then why can't 100 million people influence another 100 million people, and then 200 million people influence 200 million other people? If this happens, the whole world will be at peace and there will be no more hatred. The world is one big family.

I believe that if we all help each other, we can have peaceful world. Hatred and war are things that I will just never understand. Countries that are too poor to feed or educate their people are fighting wars. How can this be? It makes no sense to me that we spend countless hours and millions of dollars to help people in need, only to have them wiped out by bombs because of some political issue that they probably know nothing much about.

Why can't we take this violence and warfare and turn it into love, care, and compassion for each other? Make Earth our home with no need for borders between countries, no cares about differences in race or skin color? We love our home. What we need to do is unite and fight against natural disasters, pollution, and disease; not fight against each other. Whenever there is a huge natural disaster like a tsunami or an earthquake, people seem to be able to put aside their differences and run to help. Why can't it be this way all the time? Why does it take a disaster to bring people together and forget what they were fighting about?

I travel all over the world urging people to donate and raise funds for victims who have lost their homes because of war or natural disasters so they can start over; for the children who have lost their limbs in a disaster so they can have artificial limbs; for the visually impaired so they can see light again; for the cleft lipped children so they can regain their dignity and self-respect. We all live on the same planet called Earth, we're basically one family. Why do we have to kill each other?

One of the students at the International School asked me what she, as a student, could do to help. I told her that right now the most important thing she could do was to study hard and learn as much as possible. Then, when she was able to, go to a place like Vietnam or China and volunteer for a few months or a year. If everyone did that, think of all the people that could be helped!

The Mercy Center

After my speech at the International School, I went to a place called the Mercy Center. The Mercy Center is a shelter for street kids and orphans, a hospice, and a home for mothers and children with HIV/AIDS. It also has a kindergarten and a community meeting place. I met the founder of the Mercy Center, Father Joe Maier. What an amazing man! He is an American priest who came to Bangkok over 30 years ago and has been working to help the poor and destitute for all the years since then. He saves children from horrible lives living on the streets, being bought and sold for sex, or dying from starvation or abuse. He provides them with an education and a home. When I look at someone like him, I think, "Thereís a real hero." Heís someone who has devoted his whole life to caring for others, and to the people who live in the slums of Bangkok, he is a savior and a true hero.

Meeting Father Joe

During my visit, I spent time with AIDS patients, drew some pictures with the children, and sang and danced with them. I was so happy to see the children in a safe and clean place, surrounded by people who cared about them. I found out that some of these kids had experienced horrors that you or I can only imagine. Some of them were even sold to sex traders by their own parents! When I see a situation like this, it makes me want to work even harder to make sure that not one child anywhere in the world ever has to suffer. As I was leaving, I saw a little girl standing on the side of the road. I stopped the car and gave her my garland of flowers. Her face lit up and she was so happy. I only wish that I could do more for her and all the children like her. I think that if everyone could go to a place like the Mercy Center and see these children, they would never again complain about not having the latest computer or the best designer sneakers. They would give anything they had to help these innocent kids.

Here are photos of my visit at the Mercy Center:

Governor of Bangkok