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Refugees and displacement

Mandy Patinkin: From 'Homeland’ actor to refugee advocate

Actor Mandy Patinkin is the ultimate storyteller. Now, he’s telling the stories of refugees.

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Chief Innovation Officer, International Rescue Committee
Director of Innovation Strategy, International Rescue Committee

Maybe you know Mandy Patinkin as CIA Director Saul Berenson on Homeland, or as the man behind the most epically quotable line from ‘90s favorite The Princess Bride.

IRC Ambassador Mandy Patinkin in Uganda.
IRC Ambassador Mandy Patinkin in Uganda. Photo: Tara Todras Whitehill

But when he’s not on set, Patinkin uses his professional platform to speak out on behalf of refugees, and advocate for greater refugee resettlement here in the United States. For the past three years, he’s traveled to refugee settlements and camps around the world with the International Rescue Committee, learning about the experiences of refugees and humanitarian responders in Greece, Serbia, Germany and New Jersey, and bringing those stories back to audiences here.

For Patinkin, the urgent moral need for refugee resettlement in the United States comes back to a question of family. “I'm doing a fictional read called Homeland of a fictional Syrian refugee camp, but the real world is real and it's burning and lives are falling apart and dying and crumbling all around us,” he told Displaced hosts Grant Gordon and Ravi Gurumurthy. “I needed to be with [refugees] because they were my grandparents. They were my grandparents, my ancestors, all of those people coming over here. No different.”

If you're not there to open the door and welcome them, no one will be there when you need somebody to welcome you.

Most recently, Patinkin traveled to Uganda, a country that in 2017 opened new refugee settlements every two months to house the average of 2,000 people a day fleeing violence in South Sudan, the Congo, Burundi, and Somali. We talked with him about how he got involved in refugee issues, how best to wield empathy as a tool for political mobilization, and how he applies the lessons he’s taken from Homeland, his heritage, and his long love story with his wife when considering refugee issues.

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Interested in learning more about what went behind this episode? Check out Airbel’s Medium.

Opinions and views expressed by guests are their own and do not reflect those of the International Rescue Committee.