A Celebrity, but First a Citizen
Being famous does not bar an American from speaking out against an unjust war.
By Martin Sheen
(Martin Sheen plays the president in NBC's "West Wing.")
LATmes - March 17, 2003:
I am not the president; instead, I hold an even
higher office, that of citizen of the United States.
For most of us in this country, citizenship is a
birthright. However, this does not cloak the citizen
with a life free of responsibility.
On the contrary, America comes with a price, often
a heavy one, that we should each gladly pay. Though
duties pedestrian and noble, from paying taxes to
voting, are obvious tasks incumbent upon citizens,
often something more is at stake -- as evidenced by the
rows of white gravestones near such places as Normandy.
It is the obligation of all citizens to participate in
the affairs of state. Whether we support or criticize
actions taken in our name, we need to lend voice to our
findings. When done respectfully, sincerely and
soberly, this can be a profound act of patriotism.
One need not be a scholar of international law to
know that war at this time and in this place is
unwelcome, unwise and simply wrong.
And although my opinion is not any more valuable or
relevant merely because I am an actor, that fact does
not render it unimportant. Some have suggested
otherwise, trying to denigrate the validity of this
opinion and those of my colleagues solely due to our
celebrity status. This is insulting not only to us but
to other people of conscience who love their country
enough to risk its wrath by going against the grain of
powerful government policy.
Activism by celebrities does carry added
responsibilities. Statements, demonstrations and
marches that include public figures undoubtedly receive
a measure of press, providing access to a stage that
others often cannot reach. As a result, we are often
called to give voice to the voiceless and a presence to
Whether celebrity or diplomat, cabdriver or
student, all deserve a turn at the podium. In speaking
the truth as we know it, my friends and I have stood
proxy for all those yet to join this great public
debate. We urge their participation and welcome them to
the fray, for in the end, this is not about us but is
truly about the matter of life and death.