If laughter is the best medicine, Goldie Hawn’s treated millions since first appearing on television in the 1960s. But as the actress, who’s starred in films like Private Benjamin, Overboard and The First Wives Club, came to know, a person’s well-being rides on more than just cracking jokes, especially when it comes to children.
“Children have always been an extremely important part of my consciousness even before I had my own,” Hawn tells DuJour. “This is where I put my philanthropic dollars. [But] I had a much bigger dream to start a movement and to create a new kind of education attached to our academia about giving kids tools to understand how to manage their stress.”
It started over a decade ago, “when kids were opening fire on classrooms and then 9/11 took place; I knew our world was never going to be the same. I didn’t know if our children had tools to deal with these complex problems. Empathy had been lost to our youth. I figured it was time to do something about it.”
Hawn went on to establish and helm the Hawn Foundation, a philanthropic organization devoted to educating children about emotional stability and academic success. In tandem, her MindUP program, which works with kids to think smarter, has been adopted by schools in six countries so far—the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia, China and Serbia—as a way to help kids develop.
Here, Hawn discusses her work with the foundation, her devotion to children and why her role as a benefactor has been one of the most fulfilling she’s ever played.
You’re a proponent of what you call the MindUP program. How does it work?
A happier child is a much better learner than an unhappy child, and the reason is because the brain omits dopamine that creates a sense of well-being and opens up the executive function of the brain. Our kids from kindergarten to 8th grade are learning how their brains work and understanding their neurobiology for the first time, and it gives them context to their emotions.
MindUp is a trail-blazing program with four pillars that have never been put together before: social and emotional learning, mindful awareness, positive psychology and neuroscience. It’s all about the brain, really! Eventually the strategy is for it to become the MindUP Academy.
What is in store for the Hawn Foundation?
I’d like to see this become a global conversation, and that means it would be interconnected to a higher form of delivery via large organizations that have great outreach in the world. If we don’t stabilize our children mentality, they’re going to buckle. Historically, when a society loses its empathy, it falls, empires fall, so we want to build children who care and people who care and who listen and who are driven to create peaceful resolutions.
What’s the most important thing for people to know about your work with the foundation?
Education is a very, very subjective thing. So what would I like people to understand is that our children really are our last line of defense. They are our future, period. So is educating them just for academic success really what we want? We need more innovation and more creativity within the space of education and to realize that children are stressed and mental health is a first order.
What has being involved in this taught you about yourself?
I’ve always known that I’m tenacious, but this might have been the most exciting and, in many ways, difficult thing that I’ve ever done, but I never gave up.
You have children and grandchildren of your own. Do you apply the MindUP methods when interacting with them?
Of course. This is our family and we’re very honest and open, respectful and mindful of each other. Certainly in times of stress we apply all of this together. It started a long time ago for me, mothering and that kind of thing. And my grandchildren are pretty great—they have great parents!
You’ve stepped back a bit from Hollywood in recent years. How much of your time is spent on philanthropy?
I’ve been giving 100 percent of my time to this. But I’m stopping now because I have a wonderful leader. I’m looking back into my own industry at various things to do.
What kind of work would you like to do?
I’m looking into a cable series. There’s a film I wrote years ago that I’m reorganizing, and there’s another television idea for a series that I’m not in. I produced 15 movies in my life, and then I took a break from that. It’s been 12 years and now the kids and me and Kurt [Russell] are really looking at a way we could work together. We’re a very tight family; Kate’s got her own business and she’s working with kids as well, so it’s moving in that direction.
I was very happy not to be in the industry because what I have been doing is probably the most exciting, important thing I’ve ever done in my life and I’ve treasured every moment of it.
How does being a celebrity affect your ability to do philanthropic work?
There is this wonderful view of me as being funny and a comedian. It’s wonderful to have that kind of vibration, but as I got into a serious role of education I had to be very clear that this program was evidence-based, that I had many schools—not four but hundreds.
I didn’t want to get out in front too early because there’s a jaundiced look at celebrities sometimes and people will say you’ve just attached your name to something. I didn’t just attach my name to this, it comes from my kishkas. This comes from my love of children, this was a dream of mine and now it’s a dream come true.