Jimmy Stewart Creates the Foundation in 1989
Legendary actor James Stewart and Entrepreneur Peter F. Paul founded the American Spirit Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non profit, in Los Angeles in 1989 to enlist the entertainment industry's leadership, creativity and resources in developing and applying creative solutions to critical challenges facing America.
Will Smith Revitalizes the Foundation in 2012
In 2012 Hollywood actor Will Smith's financial contribution revitalized the Foundation's mission to enlist Hollywood's aid in ending the threat to the American Dream created by endemic unemployment and joblessness through its "Buy Made in America First" civic action campaign.
The Foundation helped Will Smith launch his acting career in Hollywood when he was selected to represent the Youth of America in riding the Foundation's Bill of Rights Bicentennial Float that led the Rose Parade in January 1990, before a global TV audience of more than 1 billion people. Will was able to finalize the deal for his first acting role in the series Fresh Prince of Bel Air on a trip to Los Angeles paid for by the Foundation.
The Foundation will restore its Spirit of America Award program as an online social media activity to recognize extraordinary contributions made by Americans that personify, advance and enhance the vitality of the American Dream. In addition to the "Buy Made in America First" civic action campaign being launched in the second quarter of 2012, the Foundation will launch its Whistleblower Support Project to recognize and assist those citizens who expose extraordinary federal government and corporate corruption and abuse of power. The Foundation's First Initiative Launched by President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan.
Entertainers for Education
Under the direction of Foundation Chairman and Super Hero creator Stan Lee and with the support of President Ronald Reagan, Lew Wasserman Chairman of MCA/Universal, the Smithsonian Institution Interdisciplinary Studies, the White House, The Annenberg Communications Center and others, the Foundation initially focused on the crisis in America's classrooms for Youth at Risk not responding to traditional teaching techniques.
Stan Lee's "Entertainers for Education" introduced entertainment techniques in school curriculum to change the pedagogy in classrooms to reach students who did not respond to traditional teaching. At a Summit Conference of the public and private sector in Washington and at the Anneberg Center in Palm Springs, the idea of integrating entertainment into education was considered and accepted.
Jaime Escalante, the Garfield High School math teacher celebrated in the movie Stand and Deliver exemplified the success of non-traditional, entertaining teaching techniques, which the Foundation championed to find acceptance by the nation's teacher's organizations and education hierarchy.
Spirit of Freedom Program
The Foundation led the national Bill of Rights Bicentennial Commemoration by directing a campaign to place the first ever bronze replicas of the Constitution and Bill of Rights in schools and public buildings around the country. To launch this campaign, the Foundation produced the first float in the Tournament of Roses to carry a national monument to the US Bill of Rights.
Will Smith launched his acting career in Hollywood with his first press conference in December 1989, as the representative of the Youth of America selected to ride on the Foundation's float.
Spirit of America Awards Program
The Foundation adopted and continued a program begun during the Bicentennial of the US Constitution in 1987 to recognize the accomplishments and stories of celebrated Americans and global figures whose lives and careers demonstrated the vitality and success of those principles upon which the American Dream is based.
Among the recipients of the Award who personally accepted it from the Governor of California and President Reagan from 1987- through 1991 were Muhammad Ali, Bob Hope, Yo Yo Ma, Jaime Escalante, Rafer Johnson, Helen Hayes, Robert O Anderson, Stan Lee, Jimmy Stewart, Lech Walesa.
The Foundation was founded by Jimmy Stewart in 1989 with the conclusion of the Bicentennial of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights Bicentennial. Based on Mr. Stewart's role in enlisting the entertainment industry to establish California as the leading state in the three year national commemoration of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, Jimmy decided to continue the momentum that was created through a new national 501(c) (3) foundation, the American Spirit Foundation.
The Foundation played an active role in developing and applying innovative solutions to education revitalization in the classroom for youth at risk and in supporting the democracy movement in the countries liberated with the collapse of the Warsaw pact and the Soviet Union.
The resources and influence of leaders of America's entertainment industry helped galvanize public private partnerships in schools across the nation and in supporting emerging democracies in Poland and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Through national roundtables organized by the Foundation with the White House, the Smithsonian, the NEA, Points of Light, Warner Bros, Sony-Columbia Tri Star, Entertainment Industry Council, Cities and Schools, the Annenberg Center on Communications, classroom curriculum was enhanced through entertainment techniques customized to reach at risk youth who were marginalized by traditional pedagogies.
Through the Foundation galvanizing and promoting public-private partnerships with the newly elected first democratic President's of Poland, Lech Walesa and Boris Yeltsin, of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Entertainment Industry played a role in strengthening the first fledgling democracies in the former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact.