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'The Call To Unite' organizer explains idea behind 24-hour livestream which will feature Oprah Winfrey and Julia Roberts

Key Points
  • The event will take place on Friday and Saturday with participants sharing performances, conversations, lessons and readings.
  • Viewers can donate money and volunteer their time toward helping families and communities in most need.
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Oprah, Julia Roberts and Deepak Chopra among those answering 'The Call To Unite'

The organizer of "The Call To Unite," a 24-hour global livestream in response to the coronavirus crisis, reveals how he got the idea for the event and says he hopes it will make people realize that current divisions in society need to be resolved. 

Tim Shriver, who is also the chairman of the Special Olympics, is the rallying force behind the event which aims to "celebrate our shared humanity" and inspire and support those currently experiencing anxiety, isolation and grief.

"Many people will say, but wait a second, we've got hunger, we've got disease, we've got inequality, we've got all these challenges that are facing those living on the edge. And we do, we have all those. They're serious, they're painful, they're horrific and they're outrageous in many respects, those problems. But, if we don't solve the problem of division, we can't solve any of the big problems of our time," he told CNBC.

The event will take place on Friday and Saturday with participants sharing performances, conversations, lessons and readings. Viewers can donate money and volunteer their time toward helping families and communities in most need.

It will feature over 200 cultural and spiritual leaders including former U.S. President George W. Bush, Oprah Winfrey, Julia Roberts and Deepak Chopra. But despite the high-profile names taking part, Shriver, the nephew of John F. Kennedy, told CNBC that the event "is not a show."

Tim Shriver attends the Special Olympics 50th Anniversary Celebration Concert at Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island on July 21, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois.
Daniel Boczarski/Redferns

"This is an experience, and we have invited all of these big celebrities alongside their lesser well-known leaders to share from the heart."

The idea came to him after seeing the obituary of the first person to die from Covid-19 in Louisiana.

"The young man, Ives Green, 58 years old, he'd lived his whole life in isolation, he's a person with intellectual disabilities, and his life was tragically cut short. But he was listed as a champion, and his family said he 'had a lot more living to do'. And it all of a sudden struck me that both in his honor, and in our own, we all have a lot more living to do, but we can't do it alone. We need each other now more than ever," Shriver said.

"So we sent out the call to people all over the world and people have responded in extraordinary ways to this moment, to this invitation to create a global family."

Shriver described how coping with recent tragedy in his own family had been impacted by restrictions around social distancing for Covid-19.

"I couldn't hug my cousin who lost her daughter. I couldn't reach out to her husband. I couldn't show up, I couldn't toast, I couldn't listen, I couldn't pray together, I couldn't cry, I couldn't say goodbye. So we joined together on screens like this, and we did the best we could. It felt enormously lonely."

Based in Washington, D.C., he said that in the U.S. "not unlike other places, people are scared, people are hurting."

"We're worried about how, and if, and when we can come back. But at the same time, I think like people all over the world, there's a deep resilience in the human spirit when we feel supported."

The most important message he hopes the global audience will take from the event is that "division is its own problem and we have to solve it."

"It took a long time to get as divided as we are. It's going to take some time to unite. But I hope the main message is that when you look at the human family, everyone will look and say, you know what? That's true. We are one. We have the best in us."