CHICAGO — Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn gave an emotional speech Wednesday urging the world community to help Haiti as he accepted an award from a gathering of Nobel Peace Prize laureates for his humanitarian work in the earthquake-ravaged country.
“It’s an overused phrase, I know, but I trust you know it’s genuine today, I am humbled. I’m trembling, and I like it,” Penn said after accepting the 2012 Peace Summit Award from former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who was joined on stage by the Dalai Lama and former Polish President Lech Walesa.
Penn has become a major player in efforts to rebuild Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake that devastated the island nation, killing more than 300,000 people and leaving at least 1.5 million homeless. He used his speech at the 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates to urge the world community to remember Haiti and invest in the country’s future and President Michel Martelly.
Papers in Penn’s hands shook and he became emotional at times in his speech as he described conditions in Haitian refugee camps. Penn warned that if Haiti fails, it could become a harbor for narcotics trafficking and terrorism near the U.S.
Penn is the first non-Haitian to be designated an ambassador-at-large for Martelly. The actor is CEO of the J/P Haitian Relief Organization, which manages two camps with about 18,000 people.
Penn spends at least half his time in Haiti.