Today at Harvard University, Lady Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta, officially unveiled Born This Way Foundation (BTWF), a new nonprofit charitable organization, before a crowd of policy makers, nonprofit organizations, foundation leaders, students and youth at the Harvard Graduate School of Education's Askwith Forum.
The day opened with Oprah interviewing Lady Gaga about her commitment to empowering youth before a packed audience at Sanders Theatre. Lady Gaga then took the stand in a mock trial to testify before a panel of expert "judges" about what she hopes to accomplish with BTWF. Panelists included Deepak Chopra, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, sister of Jamey Rodemeyer Alyssa Rodemeyer, Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree, Psychologist Susan M. Swearer and E! News correspondent and LGBT parent and spouse David Burtka.
"The culture of love is not going to change overnight but youth are the answer to creating a braver, kinder world," said Lady Gaga. "This might be one of the best days of my life."
BTWF will address issues like self-confidence, well-being, anti-bullying, mentoring and career development through research, education and advocacy. BTWF will create an environment that allows youth to safely express their individuality and one that provides them with the skills needed to encourage self-expression and promote civic engagement, and the resources and opportunities needed to implement solutions whether it be "online, on-the-road, or down the street." With a focus on digital mobilization to create positive change, BTWF will lead youth into a braver new society where each individual is accepted and loved as the person they were born to be.
The Born This Way Foundation also announced today that Lady Gaga has made a $1.2 million personal contribution to BTWF, dedicating $200,000 to cover the foundation's overhead costs. Barneys New York has raised more than $750,000 for the foundation through product sales from Gaga's 2011 Holiday Workshop, and has donated an additional $100,000. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is also committing $1 million in support, with $500,000 going to the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard to lead research efforts, and the remaining $500,000 directly allocated to BTWF to support online and on-the-road efforts to engage young people in civic life and deter bullying.
"Like everything my daughter has done, this is a grassroots initiative asking for the response of the community to help build this movement and shape it," said Cynthia Germanotta. "Therefore a safe and trusted online community will allow users to share stories about themselves and their lives. Supporters can draw courage from the words of others as they explore Born This Way Foundation's online community."
The John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the California Endowment and Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society are partnering with BTWF to explore the best ways to reach youth and create a new culture of kindness, bravery, acceptance and empowerment.
"MacArthur's partnership with the Born This Way Foundation will apply what we have learned about the power and potential of digital media to reach and engage millions of young people," said Connie Yowell, MacArthur's director of education. "In classrooms and communities, online and even on-the-road, this effort will enable teachers, parents, students, and communities each do their part to promote positive civic and online participation."
To engage youth on-the-road, the Born Brave Bus, with design assistance provided by the innovative youth from YOUmedia's teen library space, will travel the country to serve as a place where kids can go to feel connected and learn about civic engagement opportunities. The bus, along with onsite mentors, will also accompany Lady Gaga's next North American concert tour, providing additional resources and a safe space to convene.
"A thorough review of decades of academic research has inspired this strategy and over the next several months, we will be rolling out programs based on that data," said David Washington, senior advisor to Lady Gaga and BTWF for philanthropy and policy. "BTWF has brought together renowned researchers, practitioners and youth organizations and is committed to leveraging this brain trust in order to make a significant difference."
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