Richard Gere: “Everybody has the right to have a home and a community”

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Richard Gere in the Nueva Economia Fórum, Madrid

By Muriel Feiner
Photos of the Nueva Economía Fórum: M. Feiner

Richard Gere can captivate any audience and that was exactly what he did in the Nueva Economía Fórum in Madrid, last November 26, where he launched an inspiring message for the need to create a better world. In Spain, to present his new movie Invisibles (original title in English: Time Out of Mind), he found the “time” to support the Rais Foundation, which forms part of one of his favorite charities, the Coalition for the Homeless, and with a special motto: “Everybody has the right to have a home and a community.”

A John Matos Crash painting auctioned at ARTWALK New York honoring Coalition for the Homeless philanthropist Richard Gere

A John Matos Crash spray paint on canvas auctioned at ARTWALK New York honoring Coalition for the Homeless philanthropist Richard Gere

Accompanied at the press conference by Fernando Vidal, president of Spain’s Rais Foundation, and Gere’s Spanish fiancée Alejandra Silva, he explained that he waited ten years to make this film about homeless people and how they can be saved: “I am very proud of this movie. It is meant to be emotional but not depressing and I like to think it is uplifting.”

Rais Foundation's fight against the homeless, posted on their Facebook page

Rais Foundation’s fight for the homeless, uploaded on their Facebook page

While filming in New York, Gere said he had to stop shooting frequently because people recognized him immediately: “So I dressed up in the character of a homeless person and stood on a corner in Greenwich Village and nobody even made eye contact with me. They would spot me from two blocks away, and figured right off that I was homeless. They may have considered giving me a dollar but by the time they came up to me, they had decided I was probably a drug addict or mentally ill and passed me by as if I was ‘invisible’. Forty two minutes went by and nobody even looked once at me as a fellow human being!”

Richard Gere and Alejandra Silva, center

Richard Gere and Alejandra Silva, center

He said that he has been“in every culture on the planet and [is] convinced that everybody has the right to have a house and a community. ‘My skin is my home’ is what the homeless say but that is not enough. It is immoral to throw people out of their homes and it is not practical either. And we are not talking just about single, complicated, ornery men, but also families. It is simply not moral for a bank to evict people from their homes and it is merely the result of the stupidity generated by greed.”

Gere quoted the lyrics of a blues song: “There ain’t no U-haul in the cemetery” and also a Buddhist saying, a religion he practices from the time he was twenty: “What is not given away will be taken away”.

Asked about his solution to the Jihadist threat during the question and answer part of the press conference, he replied: “I am just an actor, not a philosopher. Criminal behavior has to be dealt with and this is a criminal action. But revenge never helps anybody. I am not wise enough to know why they behave so badly but we have to discover the causes. There have to be reasons why middle class, educated kids are drawn to this terrorist movement.”

RICHARD GERE by Muriel 2Talking about Bill Gates, Gere said: “He took his mission seriously 15 years ago. At first he must have thought: ‘I am too young to give it all away’, but now he is doing extraordinary things and he manages to accomplish what he does because he runs his foundation like his business. Its goal is to recover an individual and enable him or her to enter into the fabric of society and this requires a great deal of effort and patience.”

About the Dalai Lama who has been “[his] teacher and friend for the past 40 years [and] gets up at 3:30 a.m.,” Gere said that “after 4 hours of meditation, he spends the rest of the day receiving visitors and students and he has more energy at 80 years of age than everyone in this room combined. . . This kind of person is always young and even childlike, because they are fresh and alive and see every day as filled with endless possibilities.”

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Rais Foundation president Fernando Vidal, extreme right, is all ears as Gere delivers his uplifitng speech

Gere said that “when I am in Tibet, I am very happy because the people are wonderful and they literally radiate light. His Holiness generates love and compassion to every human being and he has committed himself to that. I do not advocate independence [in reference to the issue of Tibet’s independence from China] or violence, but I always say the truth, and as a result I am considered dangerous.”

Richard Gere’s philosophy: “There are two ways to think: One, I am in my own capsule and I only allow my spouse, my children, parents and maybe a couple of friends into ‘my world’. Or, two, that we are all in this together, no matter what religion or even without religion. If we all have this universal view, we will be able to deal with the problems of the world together and that is why I am asking for a sense of community.”

 

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Matos Crash painting from the ARTWALK auction catalogue