Actor, Producer and Director Dolph Lundgren (“Rocky IV” and “The Expendables”) gave a very emotional presentation at TEDxFulbrightSantaMonica at The Broad Stage last Saturday, September 26, 2015, that was organized by the Fulbright Association. In front of a packed audience of Fulbright Association alumni, scholars and social impact leaders, the room stood still for 15 minutes while Dolph uncovered why human trafficking is his “Fight Worth Fighting.”
In the spirit of TED’s focus on sharing “ideas worth spreading” and the Fulbright Association‘s promotion of “life long learning”, TEDxFulbright presented 17 speakers who spoke about their #FightsWorthFighting in this life changing event.
When we spoke to Philip Rakita (Treasurer and Member of Fulbright Association Board of Directors) during lunch, he explained, “The Fulbright Association is an alumni association. We are people who participated in the program, and for us, it was a transformational life experience. Living four months in Moscow in 1976 was an adventure. As members, we continue to live in the spirit Senator Fulbright intended, which is to increase the understanding of peoples of the world.”
When Dolph Lundgren took center stage, he shared his very personal story about growing up in Sweden with a father who beat him, and why this experience led him down the path to fight against human trafficking. Dolph described the impact of his father’s violence this way, “It’s like a gazelle taken by a lion. You just freeze, and your emotions are bottled up inside.”
At the age of 11-12, Dolph moved in with his grandparents in the north of Sweden, and his long healing process started. And he always remembered his father telling him, “If you want to be somebody, you’ve got to go to America.”
To get to America, Dolph applied for scholarships, and attended Washington State University and Clemson. Dolph added, “And finally, I got a Fulbright Scholarship to MIT, which is the reason why I’m standing here.”
During the last year of his masters, Dolph was studying engineering at the University of Sydney and worked extra as a bouncer (which helped him become “a pretty good fighter.”) He got hired to work at special events, which is where he met Jamaican singer Grace Jones.
While living with Grace Jones in New York City, Dolph’s life changed forever. He went to Studio 54, and met David Bowie, Michael Jackson and Andy Warhol (who put Dolph in his magazine). Suddenly, Dolph was not excited to go back to engineering at school.
His agent got him into “Rocky IV”, but he was still haunted by his past for many years. Dolph explained that when he came out of the theater with Grace people starting taking photos of him as a “movie star”,- “but the problem was this….that frozen part of me starting coming out and running my life.”
Dolph expanded, “What happens is when you have a trauma, it’s like a soldier with post traumatic stress, you end up acting with some escape behavior. When you’re trying to escape from something you can’t escape from, there’s anxiety, drinking, sexual affairs, over-eating, violence, you name it…And 25 years later, 45 movies later, yeah, I was a movie star, but I was miserable,….and I didn’t know how to get out of it.”
Luckily, five years ago, two things happened to Dolph. His “buddy” Sylvester Stallone called about “The Expendables”, and he fell in love with a girl that he did not want to loose. As a result, Dolph took up therapy and meditation that “totally changed his life.” He also asked for forgiveness from his kids and ex-wife, and forgave his dad.
Dolph started embarking on this new life to heal himself, and reflected, “Once you start healing yourself, you feel better.”
And then he realized there was another level in the healing. Dolph wrote and produced a movie called “Skin Trade” about human trafficking. Dolph expanded, “And I learned about human trafficking, which is a terrible crime. There are 20 million slaves in the world today. It’s a $20 million industry, second largest in the world. These people are physically humiliated, psychologically abused to have no self worth, sort of like I used to feel.”
When he came back to Los Angeles, Dolph reached out to CAST (Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking), and has been helping them ever since.
As Dolph closed, he emphasized, “I guess the experience I’m talking about is you have to come to terms with yourself. You have to love yourselves to appreciate those things in others. If you heal yourself, you can love others.”
As the audience cheered, Dolph got very teary on stage and Speaker Coach for TEDxFulbright, John K Bates hugged him and moderated a post TEDxFulbrightSantaMonica talk Q&A.
You can see the other TEDxFulbrightSantaMonica Speakers and their “Fights Worth Fighting” in the Goody Awards Facebook Album, including James Mary O’Connor, Brigham Yen, Alice Kimm, Ralph Gibson, Ruairi Robertson, Alice Blumenfeld, Brian Boxer Wachler, Priyali Sur, Leland Lazarus, Samantha Lakin, Crisina Trenas, Sir Ken Robinson, Catalina Talero, Eric Trules, Kate Conklin, Michael Goldberg and Ryan Bart. They also showed some TED Talk videos, and Gangster Gardner Ron Finley was there to introduce his story.
Big thanks to the many volunteers who made this event possible with special shout outs to viewing parties across the globe and the Fulbright Association alumni community. The TEDxFulbrightSantaMonica videos are now in post-production. Check the TEDxFulbright Facebook page to see when they are available.
© Liz H Kelly @LizHKelly, National Digital Entertainment Columnist and Goody Awards Founder