By Amy & Nancy Harrington, Pop Culture Passionistas
A journalist searches for hope and faith, an anchorwoman turns the spotlight on global health and a great humanitarian passes away. Here are this week’s most inspirational pop culture moments.
Liz Taylor’s Humanitarian Legacy
The world of pop culture lost one of its biggest legends this week with the passing of Elizabeth Taylor. And while she was known for her Oscar-winning film performances and troubled personal life, Liz was also an inspiring humanitarian.
The actress was often recognized for her work with HIV/AIDS research and awareness. She got involved with the issue after her good friend and movie co-star Rock Hudson was diagnosed with the disease. In 1991 she started the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, personally underwriting the organization’s expenses, so 100% of all fundraising could be used directly to help those afflicted with HIV/AIDS.
Elton John, a longtime friend and fan of Taylor’s, released a statement saying, “She earned our enduring love and respect for her compassion and her courage in standing up and speaking out about AIDS when others preferred to bury their heads in the sand.”
In 1992 Taylor was given the the Jean Herscholt Humanitarian Academy Award for her tireless work for AIDS education and awareness. In 2000 the actress was named Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II to honor her AIDS fundraising efforts.
Craig E. Thompson, Executive Director of the AIDS Project Los Angeles, also released a statement this week about Taylor which read, “It’s impossible to underestimate Elizabeth Taylor’s impact on the fight against AIDS from the very beginning. We’re simply devastated by her loss.”
Lisa Ling Searches for Hope and Faith in ‘Our America’
Lisa Ling’s new series “Our America” is an exploration of segments of society that we don’t usually get to see. In the first season she’s covered everything from people who want to “Pray the Gay Away” to some who believe in faith healing and others who travel to distant lands to find love.
In a recent interview we asked her about a couple of common themes that run throughout the episodes. She explained, “I’ve always been very intrigued by the idea of faith and been on a journey myself in search of what it means to have faith. And so that has sort of manifested itself in a couple of different episodes that we’ve done — people’s interpretation of faith. How faith affects people’s lives, etc.”
She went on to discuss one show in particular. Steve was a man who had been wheelchair bound for fifteen years. He received a call from God that if he went to a faith healing conference, he would be healed in the final ten minutes of the final day. Ling watched in anticipation as the hours unfolded. Unfortunately, Steve did not walk at the end of the services.
Ling recalled, “I was so devastated for him and I knelt down beside him and I was expecting him to totally break down. But instead he put his hand on my head almost to say, ‘You’re the one that didn’t have faith. I’m okay. You’re the one who doubted.’ And it was really an incredibly powerful moment. You could not have scripted a more genuine emotional moment than that.”
To see the many inspirational moments that Ling delivers, check out “Our America with Lisa Ling” which airs on Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m. Central on OWN.
Cynthia McFadden Turns the Spotlight on Global Health and Foster Kids
We also spoke to another journalist this week “Primetime” co-anchor Cynthia McFadden. While discussing her recent ABC Special “Best in Film: The Greatest Movies of Our Time,” she revealed some of the weightier topics that she’s working on.
She revealed, “Oh boy, I have a lot of things underway. Let’s see, we’re in the midst of doing a global health series and I can’t talk specifically about the project but there are a couple of global health stories that I’m very keen to do. I’ve done a lot of coverage of women and children over the years and I’m very interested to look at this particular issue in more depth.”
McFadden added, “I’m also in the midst of doing an investigation in Florida into a horrific foster care story. We seem to cover these stories when kids die in foster care and then we move on and we’re really determined to bring a light on an ongoing basis to some of these stories. This system has got to change. It just isn’t working and the most vulnerable children in our society are paying the price. That’s a little bit of what I’m up to.”
Luckily they have a champion like McFadden on their side.