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Big Stars, Big Giving

Aired December 25, 2011 - 16:00   ET



ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: From Hollywood to helping humanity, trading glitz and glamour for giving and grace.

JENNIFER LOPEZ, ACTOR/SINGER: That's the great part of being in the position I'm in. We can actually make a difference and really, really help people.

CHO: Big stars.

WILL FERRELL, ACTOR: To be able to use that voice, it would be a pity if you didn't use it for some sort of good.

CHO: Big giving.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I love this work. Anybody that was given the gift that I was given by the American people, you would be crazy not do it.


CHO: Hello and welcome to a CNN special presentation, "Big Stars, Big Giving." I'm Alina Cho.

As we celebrate the holidays this season we also remember this is the season of giving. Just ahead we'll talk to southeast biggest stars from Hollywood, the world of politics, and a man many call an international treasure. Superstar Jennifer Lopez -- it was a scare with her newborn baby that inspired her to help other children around the world. Singing sensation Tony Bennett in a New York state of mind, giving back to his home town, to discussion on the arts and teaching students how to lead both on and off the stage. Funny man Will Ferrell and the golf tournament that changed not only his life but is changing the lives of nearly 1,000 cancer survivors. And former president Bill Clinton from the Oval Office to a global one and what he says was one of the happiest days of his life since leaving the White House.

But we begin with Jennifer Lopez. As far as stars go she's at the top. From Jenny from the block box to a judge on "American Idol," J. Lo does it all. But it was a health scare with one of her twins that inspired her to give back to all the women and children who are less fortunate. And just like she's done with her career, she's dreaming big.


CHO: She's Hollywood's triple threat. She sings, dances, acts.

JENNIFER LOPEZ, ACTOR/SINGER: You did not just poke me.

CHO: And now she's a judge on "American Idol."

LOPEZ: You're going to Hollywood.

CHO: She's Jennifer Lopez.

(on camera): You're a mother, you're a philanthropist, actress, singer, you're a dancer, you're a judge on "American idol."

LOPEZ: I'm tired. What I am is I'm tired.

CHO: How do you do it all?

LOPEZ: I don't know. I don't know. One day at a time.


CHO: The theme song of her life and also the Maribel Foundation. It was a health scare with her newborn daughter Emi that motivated her to act.

LOPEZ: She had this lump on her head all of a sudden. It was kind of soft and felt like water a little bit.

CHO: What did you think?

LOPEZ: I didn't know what it was. I showed it to Marc. If this baby -- if Emi is not OK, I'm not going to be OK. We called the doctor in the middle of the night, had access to the best health care. We had all this privilege. I realized that lying there at 4:00 in the morning. I was like, what if I didn't have that? What if I was a mom sitting there and there was something wrong with my baby. No mother or child should ever have to go through that. Luckily for us it turned out OK.

CHO: So Lopez went to the world renowned children's hospital Los Angeles and asked them how can I help?

LOPEZ: They were like, there is a very new program called telemedicine program.

CHO: When they said telemedicine, did you know what it was?

LOPEZ: Not really. No, I didn't. It's a technology where basically doctors throughout the world can talk to each other.

CHO: Through video conferencing. The first telemedicine center sponsored by the Maribel Foundation opened this year in Puerto Rico. Panama is next.

LOPEZ: Are you cute? That's the great part of being in the position I'm in, that we can actually make a difference and really, really help people. The same dreamer in me that wanted to sing and dance and do all that is the same dreamer in me that wants to do something amazing for the world.


CHO: If you would like to know more about Jennifer Lopez's Maribel Foundation or about telemedicine, go to the

From one of the biggest names to a man who gets some of the biggest laughs, Will Ferrell. He famously played President George W. Bush on "SNL," spoofed the news business in "Anchorman," and became a holiday fixture as an adult-sized elf. What many don't know if Ferrell is giving back by focusing on one special charity close to his heart.


WILL FERRELL, ANCHOR: Stop what you're doing and listen. Canon ball!

CHO: On the big screen and small --

FERRELL: Strategery.


CHO: Will Ferrell has won the hearts of fans every whereby making us laugh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here I am. Santa's coming to town.


CHO: Cracking jokes comes naturally to Ferrell. But surprisingly he just as easily shows a serious side.

FERRELL: A quarter of a million dollars each time.

CHO: On the set of his now movie "Dogfight," we sat down talking about Cancer for College, a charity founded in 1993 by his USC fraternity brother Craig Pollard, a two-time cancer survivor. Cancer for College awards scholarship money to young cancer survivors. Ferrell is its unofficial goodwill ambassador.

CHO: What kind of impact does it have?

FERRELL: It's a huge impact especially when you consider most of these families are just trying to survive something like this.

CHO: Ferrell got involved early on when he was just starting his career as a new cast member on "Saturday Night Live."


FERRELL: Monica, you never call me anymore.


FERRELL: Not knowing if I was going to be fired at any moment. I wrote a check for $50 for my first donation. Playing it very conservatively.


CHO: Safe.

Not long after that Ferrell attended Cancer for College's annual golf tournament something he says changed his life.

FERRELL: When I got meet the scholarship winners and their families that's when the whole thing really kind of hit me.

CHO: So Ferrell got to work, donating his time and money.

FERRELL: How much did we raise?




FERRELL: There's even this -- sexy, hot tan, selling 20,000 bottles of the sun tan lotion raising $100,000 for the charity. Spending time with the kids he says is what inspires him to help.

CHO: What do they say to you?

FERRELL: Yes. They are kind of -- it's funny. It's a mix of some kids are completely awe struck and very nervous and others are, you know, they are like kind of try to prove to me like I know you're famous. I don't care, which is great.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We still would be a little garage based charity, you know, giving out one or two scholarships a year if it weren't for him. Just to be able to have these kids, you know, meet him, you know, after they have been through cancer and we had so many of these parents come up and say this was getting to meet will Ferrell at our event is one of the best days in their life.

CHO: You have a megaphone that a lot of people don't have.

FERRELL: Honestly I think that's the only thing fame is really good for in a way. My wife and I talk about the fact that we've gotten to experience a lot of amazing things and we've been to the Oscars and the Golden Globes and all these fancy things. But that one night a year where we get to give out the scholarship checks is, you know, supersedes all of that.


CHO: And if you want more information, just head to their website, Coming up, Will Ferrell may have played George Bush on "SNL" built he has this message for President Clinton.


FERRELL: I think about you every day. Not every day, but probably every other day. And just I know think you're the best.


CHO: We speak to the former president on the 10th anniversary of the Clinton foundation about a very special trip he'll never forget.


CHO: They were chanting I love you.

CLINTON: I love those kids. I love -- Cambodia, that was one of the happiest days had since I left office.

CHO: Plus, from the stage to the school, superstar Tony Bennett helped open an art school. So why is someone else's name on the marquis?

The school is called the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts.


CHO: Why? You could have put your name on the school.

We'll have the answer plus his duet with Lady Gaga Ahead on "Big Stars, Big Giving."




CHO: This is the third year of "Big Stars, Big Giving." when we first met up with him last year we called Justin Bieber a kid helping kids, a 17-year-old music superstar donating his time and money to help build schools in the third world. We caught up with him again this fall.

BIEBER: I think it's great that, you know, we're all young people and we're helping other young people and encouraging other young people to help other young people.

CHO: Through donations of sales of his concert tickets and his new fragrance, Bieber support of Pencils of Promise has helped the nonprofit build 45 new schools just since we spoke to him last year.

BIEBER: We got 21,000 right here.

CHO: To date Justin Bieber has helped pencils of promise raise more than $1 million.


CHO: Welcome back to "Big Stars, Big Giving," a CNN special presentation. He's not a Hollywood star but one of the best known names on the la net, Bill Clinton, former president, founder of the Clinton Foundation. For a decade he's been using his influence to change the world, a new job he says that's changed his life too.


CHO: No matter where he goes, President Bill Clinton is greeted like a rock star. The man many Democrats call the best president in modern times is working to make the modern world a better place to live.

You had it in your mind that you didn't want to spend the rest of your life wishing.

CLINTON: I enjoyed talking about what happened when I was president. I don't mind telling those stories. But you just need to keep doing something new.

CHO: That urge to do something new inspired the former president to open an office in Harlem and create the William j. Clinton foundation. Today the Clinton foundation celebrates what it calls a decade of difference.

And 400 million people impacted in 181 countries. When you hear that do you think would you that's incredible or boy there's more to be done?


Because of this pill will save about 200,000 lives.

CLINTON: Driving down the price of AIDS medicine, price of Malaria medicine, building up health care systems. I have to live a long time to do as much good for people as when I was in government. But I can go places and do things.

CHO: Like this trip in 2006 when the former president visited HIV positive children at an orphanage in Cambodia.

CLINTON: Looking at these 300 kids at various ages and you realize they got an excellent chance to live a normal life just because they got what here you would take for granted. It was overwhelming to me. In Cambodia it was one of the happiest days since I left the office.

CHO: He's visited Haiti 20 times since 2009. His foundation has raised $23 million towards the rebuilding effort, helped fund programs to fight childhood obesity in 13,000 U.S. schools, established a mentoring program for entrepreneurs. Then there's the Clinton Global Initiative.

CLINTON: We wanted to be better.- CHO: Since 2005 the annual meeting has drawn a wide range of people -- 150 heads of state, 20 Nobel laureates, everybody from Bill Gates to actors like Matt Damon.

CLINTON: I try to bring people together who know things I don't and do things I can't.

CHO: And 2,100 commitment have come out of the Clinton Global Initiative. When fully funded, they'll be valued at $69.2 billion.

CLINTON: You're so beautiful.

CHO: Working tirelessly to make a difference, traveling all over the world.

And 150 countries, more than that.

CLINTON: It's amazing.

CHO: What keeps you going?

CLINTON: I love this work. Anybody that has the life that I have, anybody that was given the gift that I was given by the American people, you would be crazy not to do it.


CHO: If you want more information on the Clinton Foundation, just they'd their website



CHO: Still to come, he may have left his heart in San Francisco, but Tony Bennett's home is right here in New York and so this is where he's giving back.

BENNETT: Wonderful.

CHO: Trading the stage for fine art schools for students and giving me a holiday gift I'll never forget when "Big Stars, Big Giving" continues.




CHO: Hollywood superstar Jeff Bridges won an Academy Award for his role in "Crazy Heart," and audiences affection know him as "The Dude" in the cult classic "The Big Lebowski."

JEFF BRIDGES, ACTOR: Movies, they are wonderful, but they are make believe. Ending hunger is something very real. CHO: One in five children, more than 16 million kids, don't know where their next meal is coming from. Bridges helped raise more than $30 million, make being sure kids get healthy meals, especially breakfast, at public schools so children don't go hungry. Jeff Bridges giving back in a big way.


CHO: Welcome back. He's an international treasure and an American classic. In a career spanning more than a half century, Tony Bennett has had remarkable success, selling more than 50 million records, winning 15 Grammys, a Kennedy Center honor. Bennett says he's endured because he focuses on quality. And he's giving back by teaching others to follow his lead.



CHO: At 85 tony Bennett is just getting started.

BENNETT: When my friends say at 85 going to number one on billboard will never happen again. But it's fantastic, you know.

CHO: Duets too featuring Lady Gaga and the late Amy Winehouse, has been nominated for three Grammys.

BENNETT: They said why don't you do disco, why don't you do rap? You're not following where the music is going. I said well I just want to stay with quality.

CHO: An approach that's worked for more than 60 years.

BENNETT: What are you wearing a tie for? I want to be different.

CHO: Wisdom Bennett wants to pass on to future Tony Bennetts.

It's not about instant fame. It's about developing something, a real skill.

BENNETT: I'm so happy that you bring this up, because that's really the dream. Even if they don't become artists later on but they will have an example of taste and quality, you know, get an idea of the difference between a piece of junk or something that will last forever.

CHO: That idea inspired Bennett and his wife Susan to create exploring the arts.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want to get kids to come to school you bring the arts into the school and they will come to school.

CHO: A nonprofit aimed at teaching arts education at a time when many arts programs are being cut.

Out of all the things you could have put your name, celebrity and money behind, why the arts?

BENNETT: There's a famous line from Winston Churchill in the Second World War they said we have to cut the arts when the war started the Second World War. He said what else are we fighting for? It's that important.

CHO: Exploring the arts funds arts programs in 14 New York City public schools, including this state-of-the-art high school in Astoria Queens, Bennett's birthplace.

BENNETT: He was my master.

CHO: Though his name is on the auditorium the school is named for somebody else, and not just anybody -- old blue eyes, Frank Sinatra.

Why? You could have put your name on the school.

BENNETT: Because he changed my life. In "Life" magazine, he said I was his favorite singer. He said for my money Tony Bennett is the best. He really changed my whole life. All of his fans came to see what he was talking about with me, and I've been sold out ever since.

CHO: That fame is on display here.

How does that make you feel?

BENNETT: It's the greatest fan club in the world.

CHO: The school says it has a 97 percent graduation rate. 95 percent go on to college. And it's competitive. This school year 180 students auditioned for 180 spots. In addition to academics majors include dance, drama, fine arts.

BENNETT: Beautiful. You did this? Wonderful.

CHO: And don't forget Bennett's specialty, singing.

BENNETT: This is really music.

CHO: And it stays here.

BENNETT: It does. Here and here.

CHO: Just as these students are learning Bennett is too. He's learning to sculpt. He's an accomplished painter.

Your paintings are in the Smithsonian. A lot of people don't know that.

CHO: Most recently painting a nude portrait of Lady Gaga. But singing is Tony Bennett's gift to the world and his gift to me.


CHO: Wow.


CHO: If you would like to know more about Tony Bennett's nonprofit, head to their website,

Over the years we've been lucky enough to talk to the biggest stars in the world and highlight the work they are doing to help the world. We hope you'll find inspiration in their personal stories and want to give back in your own way. For all of us at CNN, I'm Alina Cho. Happy holidays and happy New Year. Thanks for joining us.