Angelina Jolie has one essential message for her children: "A life of service is worth living."
The actor, activist and humanitarian has devoted countless hours of her life to fighting to protect fundamental human rights around the globe. Her work as the special envoy for the United Nations Refugee Agency and as the cofounder of the U.K.'s Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative has inspired hope and change in some of the world's most underrepresented places. Now, as a mother of six, Jolie wants to pass down her passion for helping others — to her kids.
Jolie recently spoke with former United States Secretary of State John Kerry for Elle magazine and revealed that she would love to see her children be the next generation of activists.
"I tell my daughters, 'What sets you apart is what you are willing to do for others. Anyone can put on a dress and makeup. It's your mind that will define you. Find out who you are, what you think, and what you stand for, and fight for others to have those same freedoms,'" she said.
Though Jolie teaches all her children the value of service, she emphasized to Elle that she wants her daughters — Zahara, Shiloh and Vivienne — to understand that not every woman in the world has the same rights and privileges they do and it's on them to help lead the change.
"I’m very patriotic, as I know you are," she said to Kelly. "For me, it goes hand in hand with being proud of what America stands for. For instance, I’m the only person in my house who was born in America. It’s only because we are a country based on people of different backgrounds and faiths coming together that I can have this family. My daughters have the freedoms they have because of being American. And we are at our best when we are fighting for others to have the same rights. Particularly other women."
Of course, you don't have to work with the United Nations to teach your children about empathy. You can start by talking to kids about embracing and celebrating our differences — and why they should never fear speaking up for what they believe is right. And while you're at it, let them know there's nothing wrong with wearing your emotions on your sleeves.
The more we continue an open dialogue with children about compassion, the more likely it is that being compassionate will become second nature for the next generation. Because it's high time we built a more accepting world for all, no?