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Jeff Bezos announces $100 million awards to Van Jones and José Andrés

Bezos said the 'courage and civility award' winners can give the $100 million prize to their own charity or they can share the wealth with other groups.

WASHINGTON — Hours after riding his own company's rocket into space, Jeff Bezos announced in a post-flight press conference that he would be donating $100 million each to CNN commentator Van Jones and chef José Andrés as part of a new "courage and civility award." 

"These are people who have demonstrated courage, by the way it's easy to be courageous but also mean, try being courageous and civil, try being courageous and a unifier, that's harder and way better and makes the world better," Bezos said. 

Jones, who founded Dream Corps, a nonprofit focused on criminal justice reform, thanked Bezos for "lifting the ceiling off peoples' dreams." 

“Can you imagine grassroots folks from Appalachia, from the hood, Native American reservations, having enough money to be able to connect with the geniuses that have disrupted the space industry, disrupted taxis and hotels and bookstores, to start disrupting poverty. To start disrupting pollution. To start disrupting the $90 billion prison industry together," Jones said. 

"If you take people on the frontlines and their wisdom and their genius and their creativity and you give them a shot, they're not just gonna turn around neighbors, they're gonna turn around this nation, that's what's going to happen," Jones added.

Chef José Andrés explained that he founded D.C.-based World Central Kitchen out of the simple idea that "food has the power to create a better world. A plate of food is a plate of hope." The non-profit has responded to countless disasters around the world to provide food for those in the community. 

"This award itself can now feed the world on its own, but this is the start of a new chapter for us. To allow us to think beyond the next hurricane to the bigger challenges we face," Andrés described.

Bezos explained that Andrés and Jones can use the $100 million awards however they choose. 

"They can give it all to their own charity or they can share the wealth, it's up to them," Bezos said.

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