Editorials

Jeff Bezos, Tyler Perry pay it forward, and young people in South Florida are the winners

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Tough life lessons and a few laughs over breakfast with Tyler Perry

Award-winning producer, director and actor Tyler Perry gave the keynote speech to young men graduating from the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project on Martin Luther King, Jr. day. The actor spoke of life's very hard lessons that he survived bec
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Award-winning producer, director and actor Tyler Perry gave the keynote speech to young men graduating from the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project on Martin Luther King, Jr. day. The actor spoke of life's very hard lessons that he survived bec

Two rich men have made generous donations to people and organizations who make their home in South Florida.

Let’s commend them. Their goodwill will resonate throughout the community.

Just as he was being named the world’s richest person last week, Jeff Bezos — founder and CEO of Amazon, owner of The Washington Post and, most important, graduate of Miami Palmetto Senior High — gave $33 million to fund college scholarships for 1,000 undocumented immigrant high school students who have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, status.

Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, who have a $108 billion fortune, donated the money to help the DREAMers — the at least 690,000 young people brought illegally to the United States, mostly from Latin American countries, by parents who were simply seeking a better life.

Now, if Congress and the president manage to rescue the DREAMers from deportation in March — and they should — many of them will be able to improve their lives thanks to Bezos’ offer to pay for their education.

What a well-targeted gift that will be felt here where thousands of DREAMers live.

Many may not know of Bezos’ strong ties to refugees, Miami’s Cuban exile community and the famed Operation Pedro Pan, which in the early 1960s spirited 14,000 Cuban children and young teens to the United States without their parents.

Those parents wanted to rescue their children from indoctrination in schools under the Fidel Castro regime.

Many met with success as they weathered the uncertainty that they would ever see their parents again. Among them was Bezos’ adoptive father, Cuban-born Miguel Bezos, the man who loaned him the money to start Amazon. The rest is history.

Bezos’ magnanimous gift to DREAMers comes from the heart — which he made clear when he announced the gift on Friday. Bezos told of how his father came to America at 16 years old, unable to speak English.

“With a lot of grit and determination — and the help of some remarkable organizations in Delaware — my dad became an outstanding citizen and continues to give back to the country that he feels blessed him in so many ways.”

Yes, the billionaire Bezos is paying it back on his father’s behalf, but he’s also paying it forward on behalf of so many who wish the DREAMers well and those young people themselves.

Well done. As is the good work and kind heart of another benefactor whose donation landed in South Florida recently.

As the keynote speaker Monday at the 25th annual 5000 Role Models of Excellence scholarship program — an organization that provides mentorship and support to at-risk young men — film director, actor and producer Tyler Perry said he was moved at the large turnout.

“I looked at your faces coming down the aisle and I got emotional,” he told the packed crowd of hundreds at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day scholarship breakfast, the Miami Herald reported. He sat down and wrote the group a $100,000 check.

Perry had been invited to speak at the event by U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, of Miami. She founded the program in 1993.

Perry’s gift, like that of Bezos, ultimately can improve the lives of young people who are fighting to get that piece of the American Dream —and who want nothing more than to help America live up to its greatness.

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