Covering Stephen Colbert at the and Gates Foundation event

First of all, a big thank you to Stephen, everyone at and the Gates Foundation for their efforts on behalf of students in need. As readers here are doubtless aware, Stephen sits on the board of, and it was great to attend an event showcasing this wonderful organization. We’d also like to extend an extra “thank you” to Alex for inviting us to the big announcement; the new media representatives were out in force.

As noted in the press release, the event took place at the Manhattan Bridges High School and opened with Principal Mirza Sanchez Medina introducing panelists Charles Best (Founder and CEO,, Vicki L. Phillips (director of education, Gates Foundation) and Elizabeth Smith (teacher, Manhattan Bridges High School). Stephen Colbert made his big appearance immediately afterward, high-fiving the students seated on the risers set up on stage behind his desk, which was adorned with a cup of pencils, a shiny red apple and a “Mr. Colbert” nameplate.

Stephen Colbert addresses students at Manhattan Bridges High School for

Stephen Colbert addresses students at Manhattan Bridges High School for

Stephen opened with some anecdotes from his days as a “huge loser” of a high school student. He noted that he spent a large portion of it being stuffed into lockers and, when there were no lockers available, being stuffed into walls. Poor Stephen! He went on to explain, however, that there were two things that had gotten him through high school: books and friends. In that spirit, he was happy to announce that had made a very good friend in the form of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which had invested in a $4.1 million grant to support over 17,000 classroom projects.

In response to Stephen’s questions, Charles Best and Vicki Phillips discussed the origins, reach and advantages of They explained that the funding was used for books, field trips, art supplies and other materials that benefitted students in every state while allowing donors to see exactly how their money was being used and providing donors with feedback from the students. For example, Elizabeth Smith requested funding for classroom copies of Kaffir Boy in one instance and for materials required in a Saturday morning college prep course in another. In each case, she said, she received the materials within a matter of weeks.

From left to right, Vicki L. Phillips, Charles Best and Elizabeth Smith

From left to right, Vicki L. Phillips, Charles Best and Elizabeth Smith

Stephen then switched gears and mentioned his own foundation, the Stephen and Melinda Gates Foundation, asking Ms. Phillips, “Does Bill Gates ever talk about me?” After the ensuing laughter died down, she replied that he probably had after Stephen’s most recent mention of Mr. Gates.

At this point, Stephen opened the floor for questions from the audience members (teachers and students). Most of these were directed at the panelists, centering on how to write the project requests for or what type of projects were eligible, but one senior asked Stephen how the resources that and the Gates Foundation were providing could have helped Stephen when he was in high school ” … 100 years ago.” Stephen laughed and talked briefly about his school in South Carolina before saying generally, “It would have helped me out in so many ways. I’m sorry I can’t be more specific, but it would have helped in so many ways.”

Stephen Colbert poses for a photo with Manhattan Bridges High School students

Stephen Colbert poses for a photo with Manhattan Bridges High School students

When the press was allowed to ask a few questions, I took the opportunity to ask Stephen the following: “Your show has done special episodes devoted to subjects like women, the home, etc. in the past. Are there any plans to do a special episode on education in general or in particular?” Two things: (1) I flat out forgot that Stephen has already done a special episode devoted to education (and he reminded me of this, very nicely), and (2) I don’t really mind that I forgot, because it gave him the opportunity to talk about how his show has highlighted education in the past.

He enthusiastically recounted the tale of how Craig Newmark introduced him (Stephen) to; it had happened during Stephen’s presidential campaign, when Newmark wanted to donate to Stephen’s “war chest”. Stephen refused the donation due to federal election rules (“as [he] wasn’t in jail yet and didn’t want to be”) and, in discussing an alternative donation, Newmark mentioned Thus began the friendship between Stephen and The Colbert Report featured two straw polls through, one during Stephen’s short-lived presidential run in South Carolina and one between the major parties’ candidates at the time of the Philadelphia primaries. Stephen also “teased” us with a mention of another upcoming feature.

There were a few more questions directed at the panelists and responses that we may post later but, for now, enjoy this additional photo of Stephen. Thanks again, everyone!

Slightly blurry photo of an animated Stephen

Slightly blurry photo of an animated Stephen

(Photos by Kinaesthesia)


  1. How cool! I recently made a donation to a project on DonorsChoose. A teacher in a high-poverty area of the state I live in was requesting several classic chilren’s books for her special needs students. Many of her students come from poor families who don’t have any books at home. Her list had several books I loved as a child and books my own children now love. I recently received a notification that her project had been fully funded. YAY! I love DonorsChoose! Thanks for sharing this with us.

  2. Neat!

  3. is really cool! I have only donated once, but it was towards books for a high school English class. I think the model of the site is really cool, and whenever it’s appropriate I like to bring up what a great format (and mission) it has!

    also, how exciting that you completists could be there to cover this for us all! thank you for taking the time to be there!

  4. wildlymissingthemark says:

    thanks for attending and providing the info. love charitable stephen.

  5. ColbertGirl27 says:

    Thanks for the fabulous report! I’ve only donated once to during the Philadelphia primary, but I think it’s high time that I donated again! As Tiger mentioned, the DonorsChoose site has a great format and is very user-friendly. I love that you can choose to donate to a particular project and watch their progress. It gives a personal touch to your donation!

    Do you think the high school students knew who he was? I know he has a strong college following, but I’m not sure about high school students. Either way, I’m sure they loved him! I loved the pencils, apple and nameplate….but shouldn’t the nameplate read Dr. Colbert?

    Oh, who’s Alex? Is he on the TCR staff?

    • a lot of high school kids know him. I think probably the same kids who go on to watch him on college.

      I question how big his college following is since everyone seems to find other uses for the TVs when I want to watch at 11:30 PM!

    • Some elementary students know OF Stephen – thought they don’t know exactly WHO he is. When mine demanded to know why I wouldn’t be teaching them and I told them about going to TCR, a few of them knew what I was talking about. (More knew about Jon Stewart, though.)

      I wonder if *those* girls will go to college because of that :D

  6. Thanks for the detailed and inspiring report on this wonderful organization.

  7. MaryLovesColbert says:

    Wow, awesome! Thanks for posting about your experience, guys! Aw, that’s so sad that Stephen had such a bad time in high school. Haha, I like that he mentioned the “Stephen and Melinda Gates Foundation.” :P

    Anywho, thanks for sharing! I know that one day, when I’m no longer a poor college student, I’ll donate to DonorsChoose – it sounds like a wonderful charity!

  8. This is so very cool of Stephen. I’ve been teaching for almost five years and have been lucky to have everything I need (I teach through the Girl Scouts and now as a substitute through my district). I’m always stunned to hear of teachers using their own money to fund their classes, so it’s wonderful to hear there’s something like this out there – and that Stephen is part of it!

  9. Awww…It’s so good to read about Stephen doing these adorable charitable things…It’s so non-character and sweet!

  10. thanks for sharing!

  11. It’s really amazing that Donors Choose exists. I work in the school system for my county and I see so many programs and students who could always benefit from any money that comes their way. It’s awesome that Stephen is promoting education. I’ve always believed it’s the most essential asset to anyone’s life and I’m happy to be a part of it(as well as a donor myself)!

    Keep it up, Nation! We educators appreciate it!

  12. mrtigger001 says:

    I donated through Donors Choose once, but it was after the whole Barack vs. Hillary primary thing. It was for a class projector for an elementary school in Detroit. I like how their system really directs your donation to specific needs, and you have an idea of what your money is going towards. Good organization.

  13. Aaww! Donating couldn’t be more adorable!!!

    This is a crazy coincidence as I just received a $25 gift card in my inbox from Crate & Barrel to donate to I think they are a sponsor as well and promise to match it with help from the [stephen] Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. All I had to do was choose a project, enter the code they gave me and Ta-Da! I’m a philanthropist!!

    It really is a wonderful organization. [As if I have to convince Zoners of that! :)] I, too, am an educator and it is sad to see the inequality among supplies and resources from district to district within states and around the country as a whole. I tell all my teacher friends about the opportunity DonorsChoose provides and everyone else to donate.

  14. Here’s thanks from another teacher!

  15. AliceInDallas says:

    I think I gave more to Donorschoose than to any other charity during the last 2 years. I have the funniest kid drawn pix of Stephen and Hillary that I just adore. Woohoo Stephen!

  16. Hi Ms I – great report!

    How lovely of Stephen to make such efforts for students’ education. By coincidence I just received an email today from one of the teachers from Donors Choose who thanked me for helping to get a table for her classroom – they hadn’t even had one before. They even had a link to photos of the children using it. It was touching.

    Thanks for the video!

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