Sean Penn: actor turned journalist turned lobbyist

Fresh from his Academy Award win as best actor in “Milk,” Sean Penn is now pushing for a Harvey Milk Day in California, in commemoration of the life and contributions that Harvey Milk – whom he played in the film – had made.

It is not the first time that the actor has gone beyond the capacity of his profession to voice out his opinions – he had also been a foreign correspondent of the San Francisco Chronicle previously, making visits to Iran and Iraq between 2002 and 2005. In this article, he explained his sideline job:

Ever since the bombing of the U.N. building in Baghdad in August, I had felt increasingly tugged toward Iraq. As I had made my cautionary opinions known prior to our military engagement, in a self-financed letter to the president in the Washington Post (Oct. 18, 2002), and then reiterated those thoughts after our invasion of Iraq in a self-financed ad in the New York Times (May 30, 2003), I felt a responsibility to change or reaffirm my position in the context of the new situation for our U.S. soldiers, and Iraqi civilians as well.

And indeed, the first introductory line to his Iraqi commentary was this: Sean Penn went to Iraq a year ago not as an actor, but as a father, a husband and an American. In his articles, he writes about little things that jaded journalists would have become used to a long time ago — the way his wife and daughter rolled their eyes when he told them he was going to Iraq, the announcement on the plane requesting all women to put on the hijab, and being held at gunpoint by six guards.

His stint in the newspaper might have been a publicity stunt; it might have not. Whatever it is, his articles gave a fresh take on the two countries where many foreign correspondents were already reporting out of.

You can read his articles on Iran here, and Iraq here.


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