“Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee, my name is Ben Affleck and I am founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative.”
And so began the Hollywood A-lister’s testimony on Capitol Hill Tuesday before the House subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights. While Affleck was testifying in order to draw attention to the plight of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the hearing room was filled to the brim with staffers, reporters, and photographers straining to get a look at the man himself. One Democratic committee member noted the issue at hand would draw less than one-third of the crowd that was actually in attendance if Affleck was not there.
Even Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York, who is not a member of the committee, interrupted the hearing just to wish Affleck luck and lend some moral support.
“I just wanted to commend him,” said Weiner when The Daily Caller caught up to him in the hallway outside the hearing. “He’s doing some really great work.
Affleck, along with other witnesses such as Cindy McCain and John Prendergast of The Enough Project, urged more U.S. involvement in Congo — a country that is plagued with crime, disease, poverty, and sexual violence. Five-million people have died in the country since 1998.
In his testimony, Affleck acknowledged that some may advocate restricting foreign aid or “turning a blind eye” because of the U.S.’ own debt problem, but “nothing could be more misguided.”
“We must be able to look ourselves in the eye and make sure we did what our principles demanded,” said Affleck. He even went so far as to say that current U.S. foreign policy toward Congo “does not reflect” our ideals as a nation.
Affleck continued to call on the U.S. to “do more,” especially with the country’s upcoming November elections.
“It’s an ambitious agenda, but it can be accomplished…if we continue to put Congo on the backburner of U.S. foreign policy it will come back to haunt us.”
Affleck spoke loudly and confidently throughout his testimony, even giving way to a flair for the dramatic at points. On several occasions he referenced a “moral compass…that points toward what is right.”
He also seemed to be fond of hand gestures.
The Hollywood star was fully prepared for the hearing, according to Jeff Sagnip, spokesperson for New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith, chairman of the subcommittee. He said the actor would not hold any kind of press conference or do interviews before the hearing so he could adequately study his testimony.
Though not an official witness, McCain, who is an investor in Affleck’s initiative, took a few moments to speak and said of the actor, “We are strange political bedfellows…but this transcends political parties.”