After vowing to give away most of his multi-billion-dollar fortune, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, along with his partner Lauren Sanchez, has awarded the $100 million Bezos Courage and Civility Award to Dolly Parton. The money is to be donated to charity as the country music star sees fit.
“Jeff and I are so proud to share that we have a new Bezos Courage and Civility Award winner — a woman who gives with her heart and leads with love and compassion in every aspect of her work,” Sanchez wrote in an Instagram post that also included a video of the couple’s speech on Friday. “We can’t wait to see all the good that you’re going to do with this $100 million award, @DollyParton.”
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Parton accepted the award with grace and gratitude, tweeting, “I try to put my money where my heart is. I will do my best to do good things with this money. Thank you @JeffBezos #LaurenSanchez.”
— Dolly Parton (@DollyParton) November 13, 2022
Bezos launched the Courage and Civility Award last year as a way to honor those who have “demonstrated courage” and tried to be a unifier in a divisive world. The first recipients were CNN contributor Van Jones and chef José Andrés.
“We need unifiers and not vilifiers,” Bezos said. “We need people who argue hard and act hard for what they believe. But they do that always with civility and never ad hominem attacks. Unfortunately, we live in a world where this is too often not the case. But we do have role models.”
In addition to being a force for unity with her music and famously charming personality, Parton has a long history of philanthropic giving. She established the Dollywood Foundation in 1988, followed by The Imagination Library, which helps provide access to books for children around the world.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, she donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center for vaccine research efforts, which helped fund Moderna‘s vaccine.
“I just felt so proud to have been part of that little seed money that will hopefully grow into something great and help to heal this world,” she told BBC‘s The One Show. “I’m a very proud girl today to know I had anything at all to do with something that’s going to help us through this crazy pandemic.”
Parton also founded the Dolly Parton Scholarship, which provides students in her home state of Tennessee with $15,000 toward a college education.
It will be completely up to Dolly Parton to decide how to use the grant, which Jeff Bezos said has “no strings attached.”
“They can give it all to their own charity,” he said of the award’s recipients last year. “Or they can share the wealth. It is up to them.”
Friday’s ceremony was followed by a report in the New York Times on Monday that Amazon plans to lay off approximately 10,000 people starting as soon as this week—the largest cuts in the company’s history.