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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Sean Astin
Council on Service and Civic Participation Member
April 23, 2004

Sean Astin
Hello everyone and thank you so much for tuning in to the White House Q & A. It is my great privilege to be included in the company of such extraordinary and distinguished Americans. Let's take your questions

Brenda, from McKinney,TX writes:
Sean, At what age did you start volunteering? By the way, I love your films

Sean Astin
Thanks Brenda for your question. The first time I volunteered, I was actually volunteered by my parents. And I was too young to remember how old I was. The event was a public service announcement for the Coast Guard.

I distinctly recall the image of me and four of my brothers wearing those big, orange bulky, navy life preservers in our backyard when the film crew came to shoot the footage of my parents and us kids talking about the importance of water safety.

Lucie, from Phoenix, Arizona writes:
I taught my children from the time they were in early grade school that any help they can give, no matter how small, was always helpful. As I work full time, I find that much of the volunteer work I do is for their school so I can spend more time with them. Considering how film projects can keep you busy and away from your family, do you try to involve your family with any volunteer work that you may do to be able to spend more time with them?

PS. I loved your film "The Long and the Short of It".

Sean Astin

You are a shining example of exactly how people can find the balance between busy and fruitful lives and doing the best we can to contribute to our society in a positive way. That's what this is about. That is what the mission of the Council is and that is what I'm committed to doing.

As busy as my schedule gets, there is rarely a moment where I can't find a way to do nine things at once.

My wife, my Mom, my children might disagree with me on the efficacy of this strategy. But the reason it is great to find to volunteer is because it feels so good -- something that you understand Lucie.

One of the major priorities of the President's Council is to encourage family to volunteer together. So the short answer to your question is "yes" I involve my family in almost everything I do.

The only time I don't is when the US Army says it isn't appropriate for my children to come into this briefing when a security clearance is required.

But I volunteered as a civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army since 1995 and the other volunteer aides love it when my wife and children come because they can see it in the lobby and give them a hug and we can take a picture together before we go to the official event.

I also do a lot of literacy work and one project I was involved in was transforming a parking lot -- the front area of a literacy facility into a garden. I flew my family out and we all worked on transforming this parking lot into a garden together.

There are some pictures of this on . My family was there with me and we had a great time. It is sacred family time as far as I'm concerned when you volunteer together.

Amanda, from Connecticut writes:
Hey Sean. My name is Amanda and I am 12 years old and I live in CT. I am a big fan of yours, and I was wondering what volunteer activities you have done, or attended, and how can I get involved with volunteering.

Sean Astin
That is a great question Amanda. 12 years old. I'm glad to see you are starting young!

Amanda, tell your parents you want to volunteer your time and have them help you find a great volunteer opportunity. You can certainly click on to with your folks and learn about tons of ways for you to volunteer your time.

I would say, find out what you are passionate about and work with your parents and teachers to find some way to volunteer doing something you love.

And Amanda, don't forget to keep track of your hours because before you know it, you will be eligible for a Presidential Commendation. You'll win the Presidential Volunteer Service Award.

Melissa, from CT writes:
Hello Mr. Astin I was wondering, your such a successful actor but you also have done some directing. Do you prefer acting or directing and which do you consider more rewarding?

Sean Astin

I get this question a lot and I'm not sure I really understand it. I absolutely relish my moments as a performer on stage or screen, be it big or small. And I love making movies. Though I suppose the best answer to the question, I prefer whichever one I'm doing at the moment that I'm doing it.

Carolyn, from Manassas writes:
The example you've set through your roles, as well as your work with the

President's Council, has inspired many of your fans to take on volunteer

projects of their own. Thank you. I was wondering if your daughter participates in volunteer projects, and what you would do/suggest to help inspire younger children to become more active in their schoolcommunity?

Sean Astin

Thanks so much for the positive feedback. It warms my heart to think that I've actually made some modest impact.

Of course my daughter participates. It is some of our favorite time when we are volunteering together. I think the best way to inspire others is to lead by example.

nicole, from philadelphia writes:
Hi sean, i think you are wonderful i was just wondering Do you still keep in contact with everyone from the trilogy?and how's you r foot doing after that incident on the lake while filming?

Sean Astin
Hi Nicole

My foot is fine. In fact, it was pretty much fine the next day after the injury. In fact, that incident has been one of the great stories of my experience on Lord of the Rings so even though I didn't like how painful it was, I'm sort of glad it happened. (Laughter)

Everyone on Lord of the Rings keeps in touch with each other on a greater or lesser extent through the phone, emails, high speed transportation, we can see each other virtually whenever we want to. But we all have busy schedules so it is really a question of each of us making an individual effort which we all frequently do.

Christy, from Mississippi writes:
What was the best part about making "The Lord of the Rings"?? Thanks.

Sean Astin

The single best thing about being involved with Lord of the Rings was being able to give my wife and my then only daughter Alexandra the experience of traveling to another country and working on a project of such high artistic merit.

They had the experience of a lifetime and I got to feel the pride of giving it to them.

Chrissy, from Lexington, Ky writes:
Hi Sean. your web site says, "He also supports individuals in their pursuit of careers in Entertainment and Sports." How exactly do you do that? This budding writer would feel supported if I could have a ten minute conversation with you. I just want to ask you some questions. I'd ask, how do turn on your creative muse? What inspires you the most and when on earth do you find time to sleep?

Sean Astin

Thanks so much for checking out I am really proud of the letter I published this morning regarding National Volunteer Week. But since you asked about me supporting individuals in the entertainment and sports field, I can just say that in the passion section of my web site (lower right corner of the page) you will see a button called Fish.

Fish, aka, Michael Herring, is a dear friend of ours and a wonderful guitarist. My wife has two brothers. One of whom is an avid golfer and the other is a brilliant artist. I'm waiting for a good link to put up there. But they are who I had in mind when I started this section.

I believe it is critical -- particularly for successful people, to acknowledge the self-expression and determinism of those around us. First, our family and friends and then by extension everyone we come into contact with.

Chrissy, I'm not certain if we will have our 10 minutes together or not, but I wish you godspeed and I'm sure I'll be watching or listening or experiencing your artistic expression in some way shape or form in the not too distant future

Anja, from CologneGermany writes:
Hi Sean, I read about your book. I ordered it already and can't wait to read it Are you going to do signings in bookstores - perhaps even in Germany? That would be great Thanks for all your wonderful work

Sean Astin

Thanks so much for ordering an advance copy of my book, "There and Back Again -- an Actor's Tale," which is being published by St. Marten's press in October.

I'm so proud of the work that I've done on the book and I can't wait for people to read it. I've committed to doing a publicity tour on it in the fall, and I absolutely intend to do book signings.

I've been looking for a great convention to do in Germany because I know how much people in Germany love Lord of the Rings, and I had such a great time there at the premier. So I'm not sure if and when I will get back there but I certainly hope to.

Rudy, from Montreal writes:
Hey Sean You were great in the film RUDY Are you currently working on any new projects? Do you think the Montreal Canadiens will win the Stanley Cup?

Sean Astin
Rudy, I think the Montreal Canadiens have a shot. Good luck in your game tonight (7pm Eastern Time).

I finished filming on two lower budget independent films that I'm proud of. One is called "Slipstream" directed by Dave van Eyssen and the other is called "Smile" written and directed by Jeffrey Kramer.

I want to talk about Smile for a moment because the reason I agreed to do the movie was in large part that I felt it was consistent our mission on the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation.

Mr. Kramer's daughter Katie chose to volunteer her time with Operation Smile. She had been practicing to compete competitively in ice skating when she sustained a minor injury to her ankle that prevented her from continuing her training.

She was having a hard time mixing back in with her social group at high school when the principal invited her to participate in Operation Smile. Operation Smile is when a group of doctors and dentists travel to different countries to offer their services to children who may not be able to afford them.

Jeffrey Kramer was so inspired by his daughter's effort that he wrote a movie about her. And he created the character of Mr. Matthews as the person who inspires her to begin volunteering.

Jeffrey wanted me to play Mr. Matthews and it was my great privilege to do so. To that end, I took my wife and daughters to China two weeks ago for two days to watch the last two days of filming.

I consider my trip to China a goodwill mission on behalf of President Bush. Stay tuned to for updates about when the film will be released.

Larry, from Falls Church, Virginia writes:
Sean, how did you get picked to be on the Council? And can a regular guy ever be a member of the Council?

Sean Astin
Larry, I consider myself to be a regular guy and I'm just as surprised as you are that they picked me.

The specific chronology of events to the extent that you want to know is that I was appointed as a civilian aide to the Army in 1995. I agreed to emcee an event in the afternoon at the Mall in Washington on September 11, 2002. That event was put together by one of my best friends, Dan Lyons.

The purpose of the event was to honor and recognize 2,000 young people who had spent a lot of time throughout the year volunteering. When I was at the Pentagon in the morning on September 11, 2002 and the Remembrance Ceremony with President Bush, someone from the Administration approached me what I was doing there.

When I told her she instantly had the idea that I should be on the soon to be formed President's Council on Service and Civic Participation. Such as the way the world works for me.

But Larry, whether you are on the Council or not, you can be an extraordinary example to everyone you come in contact with by volunteering.

Sean Astin
I wish we had more time but I really enjoyed the questions and the chance to speak to all of you this way. So as we go forward, now that National Volunteer Week is wrapping up, I hope we all remember how good it feels and what an important mission it is to get involved in civic life.

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