“It’s not about success, it’s about significance,” Mark Shriver said about the legacy he’d like to leave and one that others should strive for.
The youth advocate, former politician, and younger member of the Kennedy family joined another high-profile philanthropist, actress Jennifer Garner, in urging Microsoft alumni and others in attendance to use their intellect and resources to support charitable causes — such as Save the Children, the nonprofit to which they both devote their livelihoods.
Garner and Shriver made the Microsoft Alumni Foundation’s fourth annual Celebration event Oct. 1 a memorable one with their guest appearances and stories of inspiration and commitment to improving kids’ lives.
About 600 people attended the festive “Reunion with a Purpose,” where the 2012 Integral Fellows Award winners were announced and nearly $100,000 in grants awarded to the three winners and two other finalists. The event was held for the first time on the Microsoft campus, in the Commons building. More about the winners here.
“I implore you all to use your creative abilities to do all you can to support the entrepreneurial system that can change people’s lives,” said Shriver, who is Senior Vice President of U.S. Programs for Save the Children, one of the world’s largest independent nonprofit organizations. “Sixteen million kids today live in poverty.”
Garner, Shriver, and Brad Smith discuss ‘doing philanthropy’
Garner, former star of the popular TV show Alias, and who plays a farmer’s wife in a new movie just released called “Butter,” is Artist Ambassador for Save the Children. The U.S. organization provided services and activities reaching 85 million children in more than 60 countries last year, and partnered with international organizations to serve people in 120 countries.
At the invitation of Microsoft alum Charlotte Guyman, a member of Save the Children’s board of trustees and a co-chair for the Celebration event along with Robbie Bach, Garner and Shriver came to the Seattle area to participate in a discussion with Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith about “doing philanthropy.”
“I want every kid to have a chance to go to kindergarten,” Garner said in an interview before the panel discussion began. The mother of three said she knew she wanted to devote time to an important cause, and decided after much reading and research that it would be helping poor children in the U.S. A big reason for her choice, she said, was because of her middle-class upbringing in West Virginia, where she empathized with the kids for poor families around her. “I needed something that speaks to the heart… I felt lucky growing up in a middle-class family. I saw lots of poverty. I thought, ‘Something isn’t fair here.’”
Another big reason, she said, was being impressed with Shriver, the son of the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Sargent Shriver, after they were introduced. They started working together soon, in 2008. “I did my research. I read a lot about the organization [Save the Children] before we met each other,” she said. “At the end of our meeting, I said, ‘I am going to work with you.’”
Shriver, a former Maryland state legislator, was described by Garner as a strong leader for Save the Children and “relentless” in his dedication to fundraising and advancing the organization. “The thing that makes it work for me is the leadership,” she said.
‘I saw the joyful way they did their work’
Looking very much like a Kennedy with his thick brown hair and wide smile, Shriver talked about how his famous parents were role models in devoting their lives to public service and nonprofits. They made it easy for him to follow in their footsteps, he said. “I saw the joyful way they did their work, and how much they loved and enjoyed it.”
Shriver said he runs his Save the Children programs, including those in Washington state, very much as a business — seeking cost efficiencies and results. “The results are that we are helping poor kids, as many as we can.” In the U.S. alone, the organization reached some 185,000 children in the country’s poorest and remote communities in 2011.
“For me, nothing beats going to work every day, and impacting kids’ lives,” he said. “Our job is to change kids’ lives.”
“It’s his whole life,” Garner said of Shriver, who works out of the Washington, D.C., area while Garner is based in Los Angeles. “I dabble in it…. I try to do anything that Mark asks.” Shriver countered that, “She does way more than dabble,” and “Jennifer has done a great job of raising visibility” of Save the Children.
‘I will travel for these kids because they deserve it’
Garner said she currently is not working on any movie projects, and, when not traveling for Save the Children, is spending time with her husband Ben Affleck and their three children. She told Smith in the panel discussion how much she enjoyed her site visits, not only to see children but also to get a chance to talk to their moms. “There’s nothing more important to me than to speak to the moms.” Garner was scheduled to visit school children and moms at the Queets Head Start Center as well as the Lake Quinault Lodge on the Washington coast the day after the event.
What do you tell your own kids when you have to leave them to travel for your work? Smith asked Garner. “I am so proud of what I do; I never apologize for leaving them for this work,” she said. “I actually hate to travel, but I will travel for these kids, because they deserve it. And I want my kids to know that and to celebrate that.”