It is difficult to add much to what has been written about the life of one of the twentieth century’s most brilliant artists, but not enough has been said about Michael and his contributions to peace.
I met Michael at BBDO in 1984, right after he’d won an award at Cannes for his Pepsi commercial; I, too, had worked on the campaign. He was waiting for Phil Dusenberry in the lobby at 383 Madison Avenue when I walked up and introduced myself. He was unexpectedly shy, and seemed to want to disappear—hard to do when you’re Michael Jackson in full regalia—sunglasses, epaulets, and piping—the works. Noting his discomfort, I shook his hand, congratulated him on the award, wished him well and returned to work. Knowing what we now do about the abuse he endured, Michael’s early life makes his shyness understandable.
Perhaps driven by his own painful experiences, Michael never gave up on making the world a better place, and while we can only guess at his motivations, his good acts stand on their own. Stirred by the temporary drought and famine of 1984–1985 in Africa, he penned We Are The World with Lionel Ritchie, ultimately raising over $63 million for famine relief.
Jackson had always been interested in humanitarianism, equality, and world peace, and in 1992, he founded the Heal The World Foundation to provide aid, mainly to children and the elderly throughout the world, by providing medicine to children and through programs to end hunger, homelessness and child exploitation; among their stated goals is to “increase peace globally, by improving people’s character”—Michael felt strongly that this alone can make an enormous difference. The organization made a marked contribution during the wars in the Balkans, airlifting 46 tons of supplies into Sarajevo, and has instituted programs for the amelioration of drug and alcohol abuse. They have also donated millions to children and children’s causes, even paying for a liver transplant for a Hungarian child. The organization is unique, in that they will accept good works as donations.
Michael’s charity did not end there; he gave millions of his own to 39 other charities, and spent much of his life doing good for others. In 2001, he launched Heal the Kids, extending his charitable efforts, and continued to work toward world peace throughout his life. He did, indeed, make the world a better place, and his legacy will live on. Michael, rest in peace.