Jeff Bezos grants $100 million in charitable donations to both Van Jones, José Andrés

Blue Origin Jeff Bezos
Posted at 12:34 PM, Jul 20, 2021

Moments after returning from a brief trip to space on Tuesday, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced he was giving away $200 million in charitable donations as part of a new philanthropic initiative.

Bezos made the announcement at a press conference following Blue Origin's first human-crewed space flight, which he was aboard. During that press conference, he formally introduced the "Courage and Civility Award" and its first two winners — CNN political analyst Van Jones and celebrity chef José Andrés.

Bezos said Jones and Andrés were chosen as the first two winners of the award because they are "leaders who aim high, pursue solutions with courage and always do so with civility."

He added that each man would be given a $100 million prize with no strings attached, though the intended use of the funds is for charitable and philanthropic purposes.

Bezos recognized Jones for his continued commitment to racial equity and his advocacy for criminal justice reform.

"I appreciate you for lifting ceilings off people's dreams," Jones said upon accepting the award Tuesday.

In addition to running a restaurant empire, Andrés is the founder of the World Central Kitchen, which provides meals in the wake of natural disasters worldwide.

Bezos, the world's wealthiest man, has faced criticism in recent days for making a tourist trip into space. Critics have argued that he could better spend his fortune solving real-world problems on Earth.

In an interview with CNN on Monday, Bezos conceded that those critics were "largely right" but added that space travel and fixing the world's problems were not exclusive ventures.

"We have to do both," he told CNN. "You know, we have lots of problems here and now on Earth, and we need to work on those, and we always need to look to the future. We've always done that as a species, as a civilization. We have to do both."

Earlier in Tuesday's press conference, Bezos added that trips to space would allow others to appreciate the world better, particularly the atmosphere.

"As we move about the planet, we're damaging it," Bezos said. "It's another thing to see with your own eyes how fragile it really is."