Ben Affleck and Seth Rogen brought their star power to Capitol Hill Wednesday to testify before Senate committees.
The actors testified before two separate Senate commitee panels to advocate for personal causes – Ben Affleck discussed the suffering and ongoing civil strife in the Congo and Seth Rogen spoke about his family’s personal experience with Alzheimer’s disease.
Affleck, a founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative, said he wanted to help shed light on the humanitarian crisis in that region. “I am not a Congo expert,” the Oscar-winning screenwriter told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I am an American working to do my part for a country and a people that I believe in and care deeply about.”
Affleck urged Congress to allocate funds for personnel and participate in diplomatic talks with the Congo government.
“Outside my family and work, this is it. This is my legacy,” said Affleck, according to the Associated Press. “This is the thing I will be identified with. I take it extremely seriously.” So far, he has taken nine trips to the Congo.
Affleck also visited the State Department, meeting with former Sen. Russell Feingold, the U.S. special envoy for the Congo, and Secretary of State John Kerry, who praised the actor on Twitter using the hashtag #MuchRespectToBenAffleck.
Just before they got down to business, Affleck said he was buffing up for his new movie role as Batman. In front of cameras, Affleck told Kerry, “I want to look like you” and then quickly grabbed Kerry’s bicep.
Nearby, actor Seth Rogen spoke about his mother-in-law who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at 54. Testifying before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, Rogen brought laughter to the hearing at the beginning of his testimony.
“I came here today for few reasons,” he said. “One, I’m a huge ‘House of Cards’ fan… Two, people need more help. I’ve personally witnessed the massive amount of financial strain this disease causes. … Three, to show people they are not alone, so few people share their personal stories.”
Before testifying, Rogen snuck in selfie with the White House in the background captioned, #HouseOfCardsSeason3.
Commitee chair Sen. Tom Harkin later replied, “Sorry you had to unmask me. I am really Kevin Spacey in disguise.”
Though the tone of Rogen’s testimoney was serious. Rogen, an Alzheimer’s Association Celebrity Champion, opened up about his mother-in-law’s struggles and how his wife’s grandparents also had the disease. ”After forgetting who she and her loved one were,” Rogen said. “She forgot how to speak, feed herself, dress herself, all by age of 60.”
Rogen said that his family motivated him to become involved with the cause. He and his wife, Lauren Miller, created “Hilarity for Charity,” an awareness charity that educates teens about Alzheimer’s.
“Americans whisper the words Alzehimer’s, because their government whispers the word Alzheimer’s.” Rogen told lawmakers. “And although a whisper is beter than the silence that the Alzheimer’s community has been facing for decades, it’s still not enough. It needs to be yelled and screamed to the point that it finally gets the attention and the funding it deserves and needs, if for no other reason than to get some peace and quiet.”
Rogen spoke with msnbc’s Chris Matthews about his growing frustration with the lack of attention and funding the disease gets.
“It seems like the biggest problem is they don’t have enough money to fund the ideas they have to pursue these avenues of thought,” the actor said on msnbc. “It seems like they’re not at quite the place where they can answer those questions because the money is so inconsistent that they don’t know. They’re just now, it seems like, getting enough to start moving the direction, to start answering those questions.”
The “Knocked Up” star also said how disheartening it was to share his testimony with only senators present for the hearing.
“I think it’s indicative of the mentality that we find so frustrating so that it seems to be of a low priority,” said Rogen. “It seems like these people don’t care. That’s the direct message they’re giving by leaving (laughing) during a testimony is that they don’t care. “
“A stink needs to be made. Make [Congress] realize that it is a relevant issue and that people are not going to accept that American has no means of dealing with this disease at all when they pride themselves on being on the forefront of scientific and technologic advancement,” Rogen said.