Filmmaker Steven Spielberg has created a world where we have all fallen in love with a lost alien, dinosaurs, and one very dashing bad boy archaeologist. He has also shown us a world where we’ve witnessed the bravest, cruelest, or most humane acts from our shared history. But what Mr. Spielberg hasn’t done –until now– is create a world where we all learn to recognize our shared humanity and simply love one another.
Steven Spielberg believes that as a society we need help to find feelings of empathy and compassion. He believes our society has become one of voyeurism. We enjoy nothing more than watching someone hurt or humiliate themselves, we reward those who act irresponsibly, dangerously, or with malice. We have allowed media to teach our children that a good deed should only be done for personal gain, publicity, or reward. Our society is failing; we need to end this trend of moral emptiness, and Steven Spielberg has accepted the challenge.
The Shoah Foundation was founded by Spielberg in 1994. The purpose of the foundation was to gather video testimonials from survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust. By 1997 they had archived more than 52,000 videos, making it the largest video archive of its kind. The foundation was such a success that in 2006 they expanded and became the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education. The new, expanded purpose of the foundation is to use video and visual history to reach out to teachers and students to overcome prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry of all kinds.
Last week Spielberg launched his newest creation, USC Shoah Foundation’s IWitness Video Challenge. The challenge is aimed at junior high and high school students and like the foundation itself, it is also inspired by the movie “Schindler’s List.”
Compassion and empathy is the goal of the new IWitness Video Challenge. Spielberg wants to encourage young people to engage in acts of kindness and community service, then create video essays detailing their experiences. The idea behind this vision is that one act of service or one good deed can start a chain reaction creating many more. Spielberg wants to help us instill in our children that there is pride and satisfaction in kindness and the act of helping and supporting others is contagious.
As Spielberg stated, “the best way to teach empathy is with examples of it, so that maybe someday, kindness will be a natural reflex and not just a random act.”
In a society where bad behavior has become the new normal, let’s all take some time to remind ourselves, then teach our children, compassion is as simple as treating others the way we would like to be treated. Find out how to help and join the discussion at their Facebook page.