Thor Halvorssen is a world-renowned human rights activist. A native of Venezuela, Halvorssen’s own family dealt with human rights abuses when his father was arrested and tortured for investigating the Medellín cartel. Young Thor, a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania at the time, led the campaign for his father’s release.
Even after his father’s ordeal came to an end, Thor Halvorssen continued to advocate for human rights. He formed The Human Rights Foundation in New York in 2005. Halvorssen has a gift for reaching people from all walks of life. He has addressed Britain’s parliament, and he founded the Oslo Freedom Forum. In 2009, he took over as Patron for The Children’s Peace Movement. The previous patron was Vaclav Havel.
In recent years, Thor Halvorssen has also entered into the world of film production. Along with Hollywood heavyweight Bryan Singer, he is producing an adaptation of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Past projects have included The Singing Revolution and The Sugar Babies. Many of Halvorssen’s projects deal with themes related to human rights.
He is interested in resistance in all of its forms. This can be seen in his 2006 film Hammer & Tickle explored the ways people in the USSR used humor to cope and speak the truth. This film was awarded Best New Documentary Film at the Zurich Film Festival.
Thor Halvorssen is still remarkably young to have accomplished all of these feats. The world is waiting to see what he will do in the coming years. He has been fearless in addressing powerful, corrupt forces, and it will be interesting to see what he shines a light on next.
In Michigan, if your name is Dick DeVos that name carries a lot of influence and clout with it. But the clout and influence have little to do with your monetary wealth which according to many sources is in excess of 5 Billion dollars, no it’s mainly because of how much of his money he gives away to various causes and charities he is interested in supporting every year. Their giving for the longest time used to be fairly secretive, now, for the first time, the DeVos family is actually shedding some light on their giving practices, which actually runs throughout the whole family. This giving has all been made public in a Forbes Magazine issue on family foundations. In this issue, The DeVos family revealed that it has given over 1.2 Billion dollars in its lifetime and over 94 Million Dollars in 2014 alone ranking the DeVos family 20th of the top 50 families named as America’s top givers. One of the issues that is close to this family’s heart is supporting conservative political issues and conservative candidates seeking office. Even though the article does not cover money given to political candidates it does include money given to conservative think tanks and similar institutions.
Two organizations in Michigan, however, MLive and The Grand Rapids press have compiled even more detailed information on their giving arrangements. They were able to do this using DeVos family income tax records from 2013. The Devos family donated, in total, 91 million dollars in 2013 with almost half of it being given to education causes, 27 percent to community projects and health organizations, 13 percent to churches and faith-based causes, and 23 percent to the arts. This is new for the Devos family because in the past they have instructed all of the organizations they have given money to not to discuss the gifts with anyone. The access to this information has, however, revealed some of the strategies in their giving practices. The family’s giving leverages additional donations from DeVos family friends and business associates, the DeVos Foundations also provide strategic advice to institutions receiving their money, they also extend their influence on giving through their service on various boards and other business connections.
Rich DeVos and his family have long been supporters of Christian nonprofits that provide services to the city’s poorest residents. They have also been one of the biggest contributors to the DeVos Institute for the Arts Management at the University of Maryland. They have not only helped the university personally but have also been instrumental in helping to get others to raise millions to expand the University’s campus. This has only been achieved because as a master salesman and public speaker Rich DeVos has the leadership and influence to pull others into the projects he is passionate about.