February 3, 2003

Redford stars in 2nd annual Cole Forum


By Michael Terrazas mterraz@emory.edu

One thing is certain about the Kenneth Cole Leadership Forum, now in its second year: It does not lack for star power.

After enlisting former New York governor Mario Cuomo to deliver the keynote address at the inaugural event in 2002, this year’s forum featured Academy Award-winning actor and director Robert Redford, who kicked off the 2003 Cole Forum, Wednesday, Jan. 29, in Glenn Auditorium.

A longtime environmental advocate and activist who has received awards such as the United Nations Global 500 Award, the Audubon Medal and the Nature Conservancy Award, Redford appeared with Atlanta’s own Monica Kaufman, news anchor for WSB-TV, in “Acting for the Common Good: An Evening With Robert Redford.”

In introducing Redford, Kenneth Cole—a 1976 graduate of Emory College and benefactor for the Cole Forum and its related Kenneth Cole Program in Community Building and Social Change—said his goal in establishing the program was to empower “change agents” among college students, teaching them the value of public service before they even enter the work force.

“There is no greater change agent or role model than Robert Redford,” Cole said.
Redford’s appearance in Glenn was an informal affair; he and Kaufman sat in comfortable armchairs as the award-winning reporter interviewed the award-winning movie star about his career, his work as founder of Sundance Film Festival and his longtime activism on behalf of environmental causes.

Asked why he chose to launch Sundance, Redford said he wanted to give voice to the many independent filmmakers whose work might never get attention through Hollywood, which (in)famously tends to focus on the bottom line. Though at first he thought the festival was “not something that was likely to fly too high in Utah,” to his surprise more and more people began to attend. Then later, Redford added the Sundance Channel “as an opportunity for consumers to get something they were increasingly less able to get in the marketplace.”

But though he founded one of the most successful independent film festivals in the world, Redford was never too critical of the industry that made him a household name. Asked by Kaufman why Hollywood “doesn’t get it,” Redford answered, “Oh, they get it.”

“Listen, I’m a part of Hollywood,” he said. “I know how it works, and I’m not out to disparage what it is—I just don’t think it should be all there is.”

As for his environmental work—Redford founded the Institute for Resource Management and, as a 25-year trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council, has influenced legislation such as the Clean Air Act, the Energy Conservation and Production Act and the National Energy Policy Act—Redford said it too had humble beginnings, when some of his Utah neighbors asked him in the early 1970s to lend his celebrity to their cause in fighting a road construction project.

“The more I learned [about environmental causes], the more upset I got,” he said. “There were some truths being obfuscated.”

Redford’s harshest words came when Kaufman asked what he thought of President George W. Bush’s State of the Union Address, delivered the previous night. Though the actor held his tongue with regard to most of Bush’s speech, he could not resist commenting on the president’s environmental positions, calling them a “shame and a sham.”

“I can’t sit by for that,” Redford said. “To have the environment continually treated as a threat, as a threat to our economic growth, is not just irresponsible—it’s criminal. The thing that amazed me was the sheer audacity to try to pull it off.”

Redford also participated the next day, Jan. 30, in the Cole Forum’s daylong series of panels and presentations. Such local and national names as Cathy Cox (Georgia secretary of state), Shirley Franklin (mayor of Atlanta), Ira Jackson (president of the Blank Family Foundation), Brian Gallagher (president of United Way of America), Mark O’Connell (president of United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta), Richard Reinhard (president of Central Atlanta Progress), Russell Hardin (professor of politics at New York and Stanford universities), Donald Keough (former president of the Coca-Cola Company) and others participated in the event.

The forum also featured Michael Rich, director of the Office of University-Community Partnerships, and Michael Owens, visiting assistant professor of political science, who spoke about their experiences with both the inaugural and 2003 classes of Kenneth Cole Fellows, who spend a three-semester program in intensive learning about public service in the classroom and in summer internships in the community.






Index Find Help Find Sites Find Jobs Find People Find Events