Photos of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s nine-year-old daughter Shiloh wearing a sweater making a bold political statement have sparked outrage.
As Angelina led three of her children out of LAX airport, it was Shiloh who grabbed the media’s attention with the words ‘Einstein was a refugee’ on her top.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, of which Angelina is Special Envoy, has highlighted Einstein as one of several prominent refugees who have made a difference in the world.
Critics have been quick to fire up saying Angelina has no right to use her children to make a political statement and her daughter is too young to understand the powerful message behind the words.
Is she? This isn’t a toddler with no grasp on the world around her – and her world so far hasn’t been sheltered in privileged schools or smiling as she holds Mummy’s hand to walk down the red carpet at glitzy events in sequinned slippers.
Shiloh has refused to wear dresses, insists on wearing trousers and keeping her hair short and announced that she was to be known as John at the age of three. Make no mistake, this is a child with a fiery spirit and beautifully independent mind of their own.
It’s safe to say Shiloh would not have worn that shirt if she didn’t want to and even if her grasp of the heartbreaking refugee situation is little more than basic, that’s perfectly fine. More than that, it’s brilliant and heart-warming. If I was at school, I’d want Shiloh on my political debate team.
This is a girl who has grown up under the strong guidance of a mother who is as well known for her humanitarian work as her box office success. A mother who spoke out about the European migrant crisis last September and used it as an opportunity to criticise government’s inability to resolve global conflicts.
A mother who adopted her first son Maddox when he was just seven-months old from a village in Cambodia and brought him up as a single parent after splitting from then-husband Billy Bob Thornton.
Her adoption process was halted by the United States government amidst claims of child trafficking, but was finally deemed legal while she was filming Beyond Borders in Namibia; a brutally confronting movie about humanitarian efforts in war-torn nations which she took on specifically to raise awareness.
She adopted daughter Zahara from Ethiopia, son Pax from Vietnam and when Shiloh was born, it wasn’t in LA’s celebrity favourite medical centre Cedars-Sinai, it was, very deliberately, in Namibia.
Angelina has dedicated time and endless energy to children’s struggles and has fought tirelessly for legislation to aid immigrants and other vulnerable children, especially in developing nations. She’s battled for funding for education programs in conflict-affected regions and schooling at a refugee camp in Kenya. The list would wrap itself around the world. Maybe twice.
Watch Mamamia’s Georgina Dent on #LetThemStay (post continues after video):
If any mother is qualified to make a political statement having demonstrated a thorough understanding of the topic it’s Angelina, and first in line in the next generation are her brood. She’s made a well-considered point of taking her children with her as she’s travelled around the world on outreach missions to open their young eyes and minds to the real world away from red carpets, glamour and fame.
You can guarantee that her children have had the tough discussions around the dinner table, seen more than some people see in a life time, asked difficult questions that would make Q&A panellists squirm and are forming their own opinions with a vengeance.
We don’t know much about Shiloh yet, other than the visible statements she’s made, but chances are she will be an open-minded, compassionate human being, just like her mother. Like mother, like daughter.
When we’re bombarded with images of celebrities around the world dressing their daughters like pampered princesses in tutus, taking them to the nail salon, giving them social media accounts, setting them up in business before they’ve even learnt to say the word ‘refugee’ let alone spell it, how inspiring and reassuring is it to know that Angelina is working hard to educate her children?
Parenting is all about instilling values and a moral compass. Encouraging children to think for themselves, express themselves and act responsibly even when no one’s watching.
Angelina’s children are her clan, and whether they’re activists themselves or not further down the track, we can rest assured they will have a clear understanding of tough issues facing the world.
When we’re looking at the next generation of children, celebrity or not, it is encouraging to think a passion for suffering won’t be overtaken by shallow minds, lack of empathy and an obsession with social media and self.