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Using Entertainment to Inspire with Justin Baldoni at UC Riverside

By Yising Kao

Photo credit: Yising Kao: www.yisingkao.com

Justin Baldoni came to UCR for an event presented by the Associated Students Program Board on November 15 to give an inspirational talk about his work and how he has used his platform to inspire others. He is one of the main actors of Jane the Virgin, and the creator and director of My Last Days, a documentary series on CBS.

   The 600-student-filled room cheered as Baldoni entered on stage. He started off by telling a story of how he played his uncle's favorite album by Frank Sinatra as he and his aunt watched his chronically ill uncle lay on his bed. Baldoni recounts that the CD player skipped to the song that played during his uncle's and aunt's first dance, as his uncle took his last breath. Baldoni described this moment as a miracle, and his uncle's last days spurred something deep inside of him. Baldoni asked himself, "why do people wait until someone is chronically ill to come closer together?" This moment inspired him to start his documentary series My Last Days. People underestimated Baldoni by telling him the show would not do so well, and that young people would have no interest in it, but Baldoni refused to listen, and began the production of the show. My Last Days features episodes of different people with chronic illnesses who choose to enjoy life, rather than focus on the negativity and the thought that they will die soon. Baldoni played a clip from an episode about Claire Wineland for the UCR students, and I personally teared up watching it. In the clip, Baldoni surprised Wineland, who had Cystic Fibrosis, by helping her achieve her goal of giving a public speech, which was about inspiring people to stay positive and live life to the fullest.    Baldoni stated that we do things to prepare for the next step. For example, he said that newborns develop their body parts, such as their eyes, in order to see the sunlight and move around. He claimed that we have a choice in life from the moment we are born to the moment we die-we can choose to find our purpose in life and focus on living and doing good. One thing that Baldoni said that stuck out to me was "what if you woke up tomorrow and said thank you?" We should never take waking up for granted, because you never know what can happen. We should be thankful that we get to live another day, and always do something nice for others, whether its just smiling at someone or helping them out with something.    Overall, I was extremely inspired by baldoni's message to us. He is a genuine person who cares about others and wants to influence people in a positive way. Baldoni also inspired me as a filmmaker, as I am a film major student. I love the idea of creating films that pull on people's heartstrings and have the ability to inspire them, and Baldoni's documentary series makes a huge impact on its audience with an amazing message.