|Gary Sinise (photo from GarySiniseFoundation.org)|
PMAKid: You are pretty famous because of the movies you have been in and your TV show, CSI: NY. I have talked to a few "famous" people, and I like to ask them how they deal with the negative side of being famous. I would bet that it is probably hard for you and your wife and your kids to go to the movies or just go have a pizza, right? Does this bother you?
Mr. Sinise: It's really not too much of a problem Julian. Depending on where I might be, people are usually very friendly and respectful of privacy.
PMAKid: My dad's friend, Mr. McCloskey, worked in the movie business a long time ago (doing artwork and movie posters and stuff for things like the original Red Dawn). He told me about the start of Steppenwolf. I think it wold be really different to do theater stuff (I have only seen a few plays, but I liked them) and movies and TV. Do you like doing any of these things more? Or are they just really different and you like them for different reasons?
Mr. Sinise: I came from doing theatre, having started Steppenwolf with my pals almost 40 years ago, so it will always be something I love. But the main thing to me to to keep working whether it is theatre, film, TV, music etc. Just keeping active and making a living doing what I enjoy is a blessing.
PMAKid: One of the things I like to ask people about are their favorite books. I think it helps to understand more about who the person is. Can you tell me abut two or three of your favorite books?
Mr. Sinise: Well, going back years and years I would say two favorites from early reading are both Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Steinbeck's writing really hooked me and later on I would act in theatrical versions of both of the novels. Currently I would recommend Laura Hillenbrand's biography of WW2 veteran Lou Zamperini called Unbroken.
A story of incredible courage and survival.
PMAKid: I KNOW you like music since you play bass for the Lt. Dan Band like my friend John Twentyfive (that is really his name!) plays bass for a band named Growing Stronger. I know that your band is mostly to help raise money for good causes, but can you tell me what music actually means for you? What are some of your favorite songs, and why are they your favorites?
Mr. Sinise: I started playing guitar when I was in 4th grade and played in band regularly until I was in my early 20s. I picked it up again in the late 90s and have enjoyed using the music as a way to give back to our military and veterans community.
I like all genres of music. My band knows over 60 songs and I enjoy playing all of them.
Mr. Sinise: After my second trip to Iraq in November of 2003, I want to do something from home that would continue to let our troops know we were not forgetting about them and on that second trip I was able to visit some of the Iraqi schools that they had been refurbishing and meet the children the troops were helping. With my friend Laura Hillenbrand we created OIC to give concerned Americans a way to reach out to the war-stricken children of Iraq by supporting our troops in their efforts to assist them. During the ten years it existed, working directly with troops, OIC delivered well over a quarter of a million school supply kits, along with more than half a million toys and thousands of blankets, backpacks, pairs of shoes, Arabic-language books, and sets of sports equipment, all of which were distributed to children by our troops.
PMAKid: A couple summers ago I interviewed Michelle Rhee. She used to be the head of the public schools in Washington, DC and now she runs StudentsFirst. She is (kind of) my friend. Do you know Ms Rhee or StudentsFirst? You obviously care about kids, so can you tell me your thoughts on education and making it better for all the kids here in the United States?
Mr. Sinise: I met Michelle once at an event and admire her very much. She has the right idea about making things better for kids in the US.
PMAKid: I know from interviewing Captain Carnahan that serving in a war zone can be really stressful and scary. I think the coolest thing that I know about you is that you know that too. You help by providing entertainment for troops who are far away from home and miss their families and have to go through things that are so hard and scary. You also help out veterans after they come home.
I know you probably get asked this all the time, but can you tell me why you do these things? You do it a lot, so I know it is not just something that you do for the heck of it. It really means something to you.
Mr. Sinise: I believe we must find new avenues to communicate the importance of defending the American values of freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and of supporting those in uniform who continue to put their lives on the line each day to secure these precious values. Men and women who represent less than 2% of our nation who have shouldered the burden of protecting the American people, and who volunteer to defend our values, safety and security. This is why I believe I have a unique opportunity in my travels and performances to educate and inspire our fellow citizens, especially the youth of our nation, of the importance of acknowledging and appreciating the gift of their freedom and of giving back to those who have sacrificed so much in freedoms cause.The inspiration is eloquently articulated in the words of President Calvin Coolidge, “the nation which forgets it defenders will be itself forgotten.”
PMAKid: You are obviously successful as an actor and you seem to enjoy what you do, but if you could do anything else, what would it be? (Jonathan Raymond, the Superintendent of my school district, told me that he would like to be a dancer and singer on Broadway!)
Mr. Sinise: I cannot tell you what that would be. I am very happy and feel very blessed to be able to do what I do and that I have a successful marriage with three wonderful kids. If I had to say what is the most valuable and important thing to me it would be focusing on being a good father for my kids and prioritizing their happiness. And that means trying to set a positive example for them and to instill in the the value of service above self.
PMAKid: My uncle Kevin Seconds told me that one of the weirdest places his band ever played was a pig farm! With all the places you have been, what is the weirdest or most interesting place your band played?
Mr. Sinise: We've played a lot of interesting places but certainly playing a war zone (Afghanistan) is unique. But also a blessing as we were privileged to entertain our amazing service members.
PMAKid: We have done some fundraiser stuff for my old elementary school (Golden Empire Elementary which is run by the COOLEST principal ever, Dr Eister!). A bunch of cool people donated things like rare records and stuff, and it was awesome because the money we raised through Hardcore for Education helped my old school keep band going. How important do you think it is to keep music and art stuff in schools for the younger kids?
Mr. Sinise: Imagine a world without music and a world without art and if there were no musicians and no artists.