Actor Forest Whitaker Comes to White House to Talk Malaria

Apr 24, 2009 12:45pm

No, that wasn’t Idi Amin you saw entering the White House grounds Friday. It was noted actor Forest Whitaker, who won a Best Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of Amin in the 2006 film "The Last King of Scotland."

His presence at the White House appears to be related to his altruistic work in helping to solve the world malaria crisis.

Whitaker was charming when approached by an annoying ABC News White House correspondent who peppered him with questions about his presence and professed to have been a fan since as far back as Whitaker’s performance as Charles Jefferson in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

Whitaker is meeting with President Obama on "World Malaria Day."

President Obama this morning issued a statement saying that the "United States stands with our global partners and people around the world to reaffirm our commitment to make the U.S. a leader in ending deaths from malaria by 2015. This begins with ending malaria as a major public health threat in Africa, where it kills nearly one million people each year, and overwhelms public health systems. It is time to redouble our efforts to rid the world of a disease that does not have to take lives."

Whitaker became involved in the cause after seeing many of his colleagues contract malaria during filming of "The Last King of Scotland" in Uganda.

After becoming involved in the cause, he visited Angola "to visit some of the malaria hospitals and clinics and pediatric wards because a great portion of the people that die are children and pregnant mothers," Whitaker told Newsweek last year. "It came home as a real reality. The death rate of children is so high—it’s almost 1 in 4. [I met] a mother who had a difficult time getting to this [treatment] facility in the first place because she has no means of transportation, and her child [was] pretty much in a comatose state because the disease had started to turn to the child’s brain."

Whitaker said he "was surprised that we are allowing this thing to happen at the magnitude and the rate that it is. It has been going on like this forever it seems, and only recently have people been starting to step up and help eradicate it."

Yesterday morning, Whitaker was a special guest at a breakfast at the U.S. Capitol to honor four “Malaria Champions": Congressional Malaria Caucus Co-Chairmen Rep. Donald Payne, D-NJ, and Rep. John Boozman, R-Ark.; Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., and U.N. Special Envoy for Malaria Ray Chambers.

Whitaker last night was honored by the Gondobay Manga Foundation, an organization founded by actor Isaiah Washington to help the people of Sierra Leone.

– jpt

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