By Sean Penn
In the chain of our responses to the most influential art, or artists, of our day, there is a link for most of us, an image. One could describe it as a honey-drip, slow-motion picture. We see one hand passing a baton into another, the influences of the influential. And in that rite of passage, Bruce Springsteen is no exception. But perhaps more than any other living artist, his personal work and the personality of his singular voice conjure the smaller hand of his own youngest days. The hand of a young man whose shoe soles walked the sands and streets of the Jersey Shore, humming, dreaming, hiding. The shy thoughts, and the bold heart thumping ever harder, his hand drawn to enter into our picture to pass that baton to the guy we call the Boss.
Sense of self, and the way one shares it, is perhaps the most valuable and poetic gift in the arsenal of one's life and craft. In contemporary American music, Springsteen, 58, is its most enduring and robust giver. Whether in a song or an appearance on The Charlie Rose Show, you always get a sense of personal truth, humility and passion. A sense of humor, a sense of rock 'n' roll and a raconteurism once solely the domain of tribal chiefs. But chief comes from chieftain. And that's just not an American word. Boss? Now that comes from boss man, and if this guy ain't the boss...man, nobody is.
Penn is an actor and director. His most recent project was Into the Wild
George Clooney has an incredibly wide range, and he's prolific as hell. The reason he can make you believe he's an overalls-wearing harmonizing hillbilly during the Depression (in O Brother, Where Art Thou?) or a suave, silk-suited robber (in Ocean's Eleven, et al.) is that he plays it all so "south of snob and north of slob" that you forget he's acting.
He breathes believability into his roles because he's real where it's hardest for actors to be: in life. Somehow he manages to be cool, handsome and a standout while keeping that regular-guy thing going. He never looks like a pretty boy or a playboy, even though that is what he is by all tested and accepted movie-star standards.
How can you not like—or at least not resent—someone who uses his fame to harangue the world (and what passes for its leaders) about the responsibilities of a free press and the horrors of Darfur or even the closer-to-home and lesser agonies of the writers' strike?
I knew that George, 46, would be a big star years before you did. It was a great pleasure for the cast and crew of Roseanne to watch how he would craftily deliver lines, making them funny and sexy no matter how they read on the written page. He's a crack-up and a damn good sport. A favorite snack-table gossip-talk meet would start with "Did you hear what Clooney did/said?"
He can drink too much and still, while standing in a bar parking lot at 3 a.m., discuss the world with such passion and good sense that you actually stop imagining him nude and really listen. Simply as I can put it, George Clooney could run for President (and maybe should) and get my vote!
Comedienne Barr, now appearing in Las Vegas, blogs daily at roseanneworld.com
By Deval Patrick
The first time I met Barack we had coffee together at a shop in downtown Chicago. He was in a small law firm, and I was at the Justice Department's civil rights division in the Clinton Administration. Like many who meet him, I hoped he would one day run for public office. You just want people of his caliber to lead.
When at last he decided to run for the Illinois Senate, he called to ask for my help, and I was eager to give it. "I'll contribute at the max," I pledged. "Deval," he said, "in Illinois there is no max." I said, "Brother, I'm sorry, there has to be a max!"
Barack, 46, has already changed American politics. We often hear about the size of the crowds he attracts, as a measure of the excitement about his candidacy. It's the variety of the crowd that is the real phenomenon: little kids who sit on the floor in front of the podium, and the 101-year-old gentleman who stood up from his wheelchair in Iowa and said, "I'm with him too." Farmers in overalls next to people in business suits. Every race, religion and creed. Every political party and no party at all.
You can feel their excitement about being in Barack's presence—and about being in the presence of one another. They glimpse for a minute what it might be like to find common cause across differences. That's how Barack has changed politics.
Patrick is governor of Massachusetts (added because I'm from Massachusetts and am leaning toward Barack)