By Mariah Giblin
Rhodes College recently held a lecture for students and faculty to engage in an open conversation about politics, entertainment, and affecting change in our communities with humanitarians Mia Farrow and her son, Ronan Farrow. A UNICEF ambassador as well as a renown actress, Ms. Farrow’s humanitarian efforts have specifically included writing and speaking on the genocide in Darfur, as well as traveling throughout the region. Her son, Ronan Farrow is Mia’s only child from her marriage with fellow actor Woody Allen, and has most notably served as a senior official during the Obama administration. In addition, he assisted the foundation of the State Department Office of Global Youth Issues, where he became America’s first youth envoy during the Arab Spring revolutions. Named Forbe’s number one “30 under 30” most influential people in Law and Policy, Ronan has followed in the footsteps of his mother, making international headlines at the young age of 25.
The panel of members of the Lecture Board first asked the Farrows about how their large and dynamic family has influenced their passion for philanthropy at home and abroad. Ronan explained that his unique upbringing—thirteen siblings, some of which come from all around the world—exposed him to global economic and social issues at a young age. Not only did this instilled a sense of responsibility at his core, but he has been inspired by his siblings to contribute to the international community as much as possible. He then spoke of his fond appreciation of his mother, and how their passion for social and economic development has become an area where the two are able to join forces.
In contrast, Mia stated that being one of seven very similar children in an Irish-Catholic household growing up made her desperate to stand out and be different. Although mother and son, the difference in their upbringings have allowed Ronan and Mia to find a common ground through philanthropy, and as a result, their work together has influenced change around the world.
When asked what specifically inspired values of social responsibility, Mia piped up first. Admitting that the adverse effects of stardom and fame “fueled her passion to help others in need,” it was both heartwarming and heartbreaking to hear Ms. Farrow describe the feeling of “being suspended in a lifeboat” and needing to pull people in as the result of an unhappy marriage. She spoke of her decision to leave Hollywood and how the Vietnam War protests were also an influence on her career as a humanitarian. Ronan joked about how he grew up in his mother’s “lifeboat,” and reiterates how powerful it was witnessing his siblings’ tough backgrounds of disease and abuse. Mia added that she always taught her children “the power and importance of respect and responsibility, that we must above all respect the human family and our planet.” As she puts it, “it’s the only one we got.”
The panel ended the lecture by asking Mia and Ronan how students at Rhodes College can learn from their success and make a difference in the Memphis and international community. It was obvious that Mr. Farrow had done his research as he lauded Rhodes College as being the most service-minded school in the country, specifically mentioning our campus programs such as The Kinney Program, The Bridge Streetpaper, amongst other activities. He noted that the students of Rhodes College are “not waiting for an opportunity to make a difference,” but that we are creating our own opportunities and taking initiative. The key to his early success, he describes, is his determination and constant submissions of Op-ed pieces to various publications until he was finally published. He also reassured us that “young people can make a difference… don’t be afraid to express your ideas, even though we are so young,” he confidently added. Mia agreed with her son and inspired the audience to “not wait to make a difference!” She stressed that age should not hinder our ability to foster positivity and change in the world. Powerfully, Ms. Farrow ended the lecture and stated that in her opinion, the most important thing for young people to understand is that “with knowledge comes responsibility.” And as Mia and Ronan have proven, if all decisions are shaped by respect and responsibility, there is infinite room to succeed.
Mariah Giblin is sophomore from Houston, TX, majoring in English.