National Press Club

Hip-hop Star Says Giving Back is Duty of Celebs

December 31, 1969 | By Ellyn Ferguson |

Chris Ludacris Bridges

Chris Ludacris Bridges

Photo/Image: Sam Hurd

Celebrities have a duty to giveback to society and use philanthropy as a tool for change, hip-hop star and actor Chris “Ludacris” Bridges said Oct. 23.

“I feel like every celebrity, even if they don’t realize it, they have great responsibility and great influence. With great power comes great responsibility,” the 32-year-old Grammy winner said. Bridges, who has sold 24 million records worldwide, put music aside to talk about leadership and charity at a National Press Club luncheon.

“There are calls for everyday people to take leadership roles in philanthropy in order to help the communities in which they work and live,” said Bridges, founder and chairman of The Ludacris Foundation. “That’s something I believe I have done to the fullest of my capabilities.”

He and his mother and foundation president, Roberta Shields, were in town for the organization’s Oct. 24 fundraiser.

Bridges said the organization’s first-ever Washington fundraiser was an opportunity “to connect with all the policy makers and movers and shakers of the United States of America.”

The Atlanta-based foundation has donated more than $2 million since its creation in December 2001 to operate youth leadership and education programs, combat childhood obesity, aid families displaced by Hurricane Katrina and promote community service.

His guiding principle, Bridges said, “is to help people who want to help themselves.”

Individuals, especially celebrities like himself, have the power to lead and to set examples, he said.

Although he made several references to President Obama’s call to service, Bridges said, “I’m talking about leadership that is apolitical. Leadership that is very basic and that starts with self.”

He said government programs and institutions can’t solve many of the problems confronting communities, especially struggling neighborhoods.

Bridges learned to have expectations and to set goals thanks to his mother who forced him every school year to write down what he wanted to accomplish. It gave him focus.

“I did not like it at the time,” Bridges said, as the audience and his mother, who sat as the head table, laughed.

But he said many people, especially the poor, don’t have the sense that they can change things or that ”tomorrow will be better than today or that (America’s) promise is even meant for them.”

He’s out to change that, Bridges said.

Bridges said people don’t need money to make a difference in their communities. They can donate time to neighborhood projects like rebuilding schools.

He said the worst thing about being a celebrity is when “some of you” in the media write distorted stories about him and other rappers.

On a lighter note, Bridges said he had discovered a quirky thing about celebrityhood.

“We already make a lot of money, and people still give us things for free,” he said.

That proved a perfect segue for Press Club President Donna Leinwand, who presented him with “his official free media freebie” - a mug from the Club.

“I’ll be using it,” Bridges said.