Actress would send Obama to visit San Juan

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Native New Yorker Melonie Diaz, who co-starred in this summer’s indie hit, “Fruitvale Station,” was the winner of the Grand Jury Prize for dramatic feature and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Raised in New York’s Lower East Side, she began acting while attending the Henry Street Settlement and the Professional Performing Arts High School. Diaz’s film career includes featured roles in “Double Whammy,” “Raising Victor Vargas,” “Lords of Dogtown,” “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints,” which earned her an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Female Actress, “Hamlet 2” and “Be Kind Rewind,” among others. Diaz’s passion for giving back is focused on working with Scenarios USA (www.scenariosusa.org), a nonprofit organization for youths. 

ROBIN BRONK: If you had five minutes in the Oval Office with President Obama, what would you discuss with him? What issue would you like him to know about? 

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Melonie Diaz: I would like to discuss his plan for getting a better education system in lower-income neighborhoods. I saw personally, through my own experience growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the value of a good school and committed teachers, as well as in my volunteer work with the nonprofit Scenarios USA, which brings innovative arts and sex-ed programs to under-resourced schools, how important it is to see all people as at-potential.

RB: If you could ask the president one question, what would that be?

MD: What makes you happy?

RB: What piece of advice would you give the president?

MD: Remember to be always be kind, compassionate and patient. And, of course, breathe.

RB: If you were going to send President Obama to one of your favorite places in the United States for one day, where would that be? Why? 

MD: I would take him to old San Juan in Puerto Rico. It’s a beautiful place with a lot of history. It’s a great place to reflect on future decisions. We have some of the best people, food and conversation there. These are some of the people he’s fighting for, and many feel overlooked. 

RB: What CD would you recommend that the president add to his collection? Why? 

MD: I would recommend that he buy the Ken Burns compilation of jazz’s history. He will no doubt be inspired to change the world after listening to the masters of jazz.

RB: Would you ever consider a political career? 

MD: No way.

Bronk is CEO of The Creative Coalition (www.thecreativecoalition.org), the leading national, nonprofit, nonpartisan public advocacy organization of the entertainment industry. Bronk is a frequent speaker on the role of the entertainment industry in public advocacy campaigns and represents The Creative Coalition and its legislative agenda before members of Congress and the White House. She produced the feature film, “PoliWood,” airing on Showtime, and edited the recently published book, Art & Soul. Bronk pens this weekly column with assistance from Lucy Gross.