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Chris Dodd and Sean Penn in Haiti

Christopher Dodd

Chris Dodd, the longtime Democratic senator from Connecticut, now heads the Motion Picture Assn. of America. It's a role that's often been cast from the ranks of politics.

The MPAA's earliest incarnation was headed by Republican Will H. Hays, the former postmaster general, he of the notorious Hays Code. The longest-serving MPAA chief, Jack Valenti, had been an assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson. Valenti's replacement was Dan Glickman, a onetime Democratic congressman and secretary of Agriculture. They all knew the ropes in Washington, which is where the MPAA is headquartered.

Dodd served in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic and recently went back for a reunion -- and for a journey to the other side of the island, Haiti, in Sean Penn's company.

"It was a great reunion. I saw a lot of old friends I hadn't seen for years," Dodd told me.

At the Sundance Film Festival, he said, he had run into Penn, who invited him to Haiti. Dodd took him up on it, after his Peace Corps reunion.

"Words cannot describe the commitment he has made, the difference he's making in the lives of people," Dodd said. "This is no casual photo op -– this is a deeply serious guy making a serious commitment. And George Clooney, what he's done in Darfur, and Julianne Moore, what she's doing for Save the Children. One thing I admire about a lot of people in the industry is their willingness to use their celebrity to make a difference in people's lives. I want to do things like that as well."

Dodd said he has opened the screening theater in the MPAA's D.C. office for matinees for wounded veterans from Walter Reed Hospital so they can "come on down for a bag of popcorn and a little [movie] break, getting out of the hospital."


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Photo: Christopher Dodd is seen here on Dec. 13, 2010. Credit: Jessica Hill/AP Photo


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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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