Actor George Clooney has been included among PEOPLE magazine’s “People of the Year” list alongside Dr. Anthony Fauci and actress Regina King — and according to him, America has much to atone for due to its past history of racism, though he has not given up believing in the country’s fighting spirit.
“I grew up in a generation where all the people that mattered to us were being murdered, from Martin Luther King to Bobby and Jack Kennedy to Malcolm X and Medgar Evers, and all these things that counted were going on, with women’s rights, civil rights, the anti-Vietnam [war protests],” Clooney told the magazine.
“You had to be involved. My mother and father were involved, and we were [taught] it is your civic duty… I remember my father saying, ‘Don’t come back and look me in the eye unless you stand up to [bullies and racists].’ I’m glad to have been raised that way,” he added.
After PEOPLE listed the actor’s various philanthropic initiatives throughout his career, Clooney said that even though the country has failed many times, he does not consider the United States a failed state.
“I’m always optimistic about this country. We fail a great deal, but I’ve been to so many countries that are really failed states, and they look to this country for leadership,” he said. “We come up short a lot—race being our great original sin and clearly the one we’ve been the worst at—but we are in the constant process of trying to find a more perfect union… You can’t give up. I believe in the American spirit.”
Reflecting on his own children, the star said he does not want his two twins to grow up and reflect upon a time in which children were being put in cages.
“I’m in the same situation as most fathers of 3-year-olds: I don’t want my children when they’re 15 years old to turn around and say, ‘There was a time when they were putting kids in cages?… And what did you do about that?’ And if the answer is ‘nothing,’ then I would be ashamed,” he said.
In 2015, the actor said he may very well quit acting to pursue social justice, though he did not follow-through on that.
“I’ve been asked that for almost 20 years now and the answer is just no,” Clooney said on the prospect of running for office. “Who would ever want to live like that? I’m friends with a lot of those guys and I just think it’s hell.”
Most recently, George Clooney expressed outrage over the Kentucky Attorney General’s decision not to indict officers in the killing of Breonna Taylor.
“The justice system I was raised to believe in holds people responsible for their actions,” Clooney said. “Her name was Breonna Taylor and she was shot to death in her bed by 3 white police officers, who will not be charged with any crime for her death. I know the community. I know the commonwealth. And I was taught in the schools and churches of Kentucky what is right and what is wrong.”