Billionaire Bezos, also known as Jeff “The Space Cowboy” Bezos, cements his recent flight to the edge of space by awarding $100 million each to CNN contributor Van Jones and celebrity chef José Andrés.
“They can give it all to their own charity,” Bezos said at a press conference immediately after his trip to outer space. “Or they can share the wealth. It is up to them.”
According to the Amazon founder, the money was tied to a “surprise” philanthropic initiative he wanted to announce called the Courage and Civility Award. Meant to honor those who have “demonstrated courage” and tried to be a unifier in a divisive world, Jones and Andrés were overwhelmed by the gesture.
The CNN political commentator and founder of Dream Corps, a nonprofit focused on bipartisan solutions for criminal justice reform, delivered impassioned remarks, thanking the Blue Origin founder for “betting on him.”
“Lauren and Jeff don’t do anything small, man, they just don’t do it. They dream big, they love big, and they bet big,” Jones said at a news conference on Tuesday July 20 where the award was announced. “And you bet on me, and I appreciate it.”
“We need unifiers and not vilifiers,” Bezos said. “We need people who argue hard and act hard for what they believe. But they do that always with civility and never ad hominem attacks. Unfortunately, we live in a world where this is too often not the case. But we do have role models.”
Andrés, who has poured his culinary skills and efforts into feeding millions around the world, said that the award itself “cannot feed the world on its own.”
“But,” Andrés added, “this is a start of a new chapter for us.”
The philanthropic initiative is quite the shock for most Americans as Bezos represents a host of other billionaires such as Richard Branson, the Virgin Galactic investor, and Elon Music, the founder of SpaceX, face criticism for spending their massive wealth on space tourism. Bezos has been criticized for never contributing to philanthropy, paying taxes, and has faced claims where his efforts should do more to improve the conditions for people on Earth, instead of trying to fly off lightyears into space.
Bezos and his supporters have tried to say that both are possible, with this new award being an example of said change.
“I say they’re largely right. We have to do both,” Bezos said in an interview with CNN Monday, July 19. “You know, we have lots of problems here and now on Earth and we need to work on those, and we always need to look to the future. We’ve always done that as a species, as a civilization. We have to do both.”
The fallout from this news has reverberated everywhere, but EBONY readers, we want to know what you think about Jeff Bezos overlooking many deserving organizations and people for Van Jones?
Check out some of the reactions from the online community below.