By Ryan Steal
Just hours after spending more than $5 billion on his 10-minute journey to space, Jeff Bezos shocked the world by announcing plans to donate a total of $200 million to celebrity chef Jose Andres and political commentator Van Jones. The pair is free to channel the funds to charities of their choice, including their own.
“They can give it all to their own charity or they can share the wealth. It’s up to them,” Bezos said.
Days before the successful space flight, the Amazon founder and boss of aerospace company Blue Origin had donated another $219 million, making a total of $419 million in a week. Of the $219 million, he channeled $200 million to National Air & Space Museum, the nonprofit wing of his Blue Origin spaceflight company gave $19 million to 19 space nonprofits.
At a news conference held after the world’s richest man’s suborbital flight, the billionaire said he was launching a Courage and Civilization Award that will focus on appreciating leaders who courageously run after solutions and do so with civility.
“We need unifiers and not vilifiers,” Bezos said. The award donations were for people who care to toil for their faith with decency.
“We live in a world where sometimes instead of disagreeing with someone’s ideas, we question their character or their motives,” Bezos said, adding, “Guess what? After you do that, it’s pretty damn hard to work with that person. And really what we should always be doing is questioning ideas, not the person.”
During a press conference, a clearly emotional Jones said, “Sometimes dreams do come true.”
Jones founded Dream Corps, a nonprofit organization that addresses criminal justice reform and technical equity. He’s also known for his role as CNN’s contributor.
On the other hand, Andres is the founder of World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit that provides emergency relief food.
“I’m so honored,” he said. “I’m really grateful for this reward.”
Bezos’ most recent donations have blown the minds of many, who didn’t hesitate to air out their opinions.
“The suborbital flights of #JeffBezos and #RichardBranson have been criticized as pointless as the pandemic has raged and the world deals with climate change. The $200 million donation today and $419 in last week seems like a way to answer critics by saying he cares,” one Twitter user wrote.
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