Bezos to gift $100M to Van Jones to give to charities of his choice

"We need people who argue hard and act hard for what they believe," the billionaire said while giving out $200M to people he believes will do good in the world

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Following his trip to the edge of space, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos returned to earth on a new mission to pay it forward. 

The wealthiest man in the world announced Tuesday that he plans to donate $100M each to CNN contributor Van Jones and celebrity chef José Andrés.

“They can give all to their own charity or they can share their wealth. It’s all up to them,” Bezos said at a press conference after his trip to space, CNN reports. The gift is part of his philanthropic initiative called the Courage and Civility Award, with aims to honor “leaders who aim high, and who pursue solutions with courage and who always do so with civility.”

Jeff Bezos Van Jones thegrio.com
Jeff Bezos (C) stands with Chef Jose Andres (L) and Van Jones, founder of Dream Corps, after announcing a $100 million award for their projects that help humanity on July 20, 2021 in Van Horn, Texas. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

“We need unifiers and not vilifiers,” Bezos said. “We need people who argue hard and act hard for what they believe. But they do that always with civility and never ad hominem attacks. Unfortunately, we live in a world where this is too often not the case. But we do have role models.”

While accepting the award, Jones said “Sometimes dreams come true.”

“Lauren and Jeff don’t do nothing small, man, they don’t do anything small, they just don’t do it. They dream big, they love big, and they bet big. And you bet on me, and I appreciate it,” Jones said at a news conference on Tuesday where the award was announced, as reported by The Hill.

He also recalled the conversation he and Bezos had over the weekend about Jones being the recipient of the award. 

“He said that he thought that my attempts to try to bring people together across party lines, across racial lines had been inspiring, and can I use some more support,” Jones said.

Jones is the founder of the nonprofit Dream Corps, which focuses on criminal justice reform. He intends to use the funds to “give to others who have a similar spirit.”

“You got people coming out of prisons, you have got people on reservations, you have got people in Appalachia, you have got people at the border, all people,” said Jones at the press conference. “This country is unbelievable what people are doing, and how much heart they have and how much love they have. They don’t care about these things we divide over sometime and they need more support. If we can connect them with more resources, it is going to make a big difference.”

Andrés, who started the nonprofit World Central Kitchen, said that the $100M dollar award “cannot feed the world on its own,” but, “this is a start of a new chapter for us.”

As previously reported by theGrio, Bezos blasted into space Tuesday on his rocket company’s first flight with people on board, becoming the second billionaire in just over a week to ride his own spacecraft. He was accompanied by a hand-picked group: his brother, an 18-year-old from the Netherlands, and an 82-year-old aviation pioneer from Texas — the youngest and oldest to ever fly in space.

Jeff Bezos thegrio.com
Jeff Bezos (Credit: Jeff Bezos)

Named after America’s first astronaut, Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket soared from remote West Texas on the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, a date chosen by Bezos for its historical significance.

He held fast to it, even as Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson pushed up his own flight from New Mexico in the race for space tourist dollars and beat him to space by nine days.

Unlike Branson’s piloted rocket plane, Bezos’ capsule was completely automated and required no official staff on board for the up-and-down flight.

Fewer than 600 people have reached the edge of space or beyond. Until Tuesday, the youngest was 25-year-old Soviet cosmonaut Gherman Titov and the oldest at 77 was Mercury-turned-shuttle astronaut John Glenn.

This story contains additional reporting from Associated Press.

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