The Real Reason Jeff Bezos Gave Van Jones $100 Million

Jeff Bezos is spreading a bit of wealth. The Amazon founder became the second billionaire in history to fly into space in his own aircraft, per CNN, on July 20. Richard Branson previously beat Bezos to the punch when he was launched into space on his Virgin Galactic rocket the week prior. Bezos, though, flew on Blue Origin's New Shepard Rocket with his brother, an 18-year-old from the Netherlands, and an 82-year-old pioneer from Texas — the youngest and oldest to fly into space, making the space race competition even more entertaining, according to The Guardian.

Though Bezos' space trip only lasted 11 minutes, he called it "the best day ever" and added that he felt "unbelievably good" after his spacecraft landed back on Earth. In his post-flight press conference, Bezos also reiterated that his space tourism business is to encourage people to pursue careers in science and "preserve" this planet. Bezos also dropped a big surprise on CNN's Van Jones by giving him $100 million. Find out why Bezos was feeling so generous below.

Jeff Bezos made Van Jones' 'dreams come true'

As the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos has never been shy about spending or donating his money. After his journey to space on July 20, Bezos surprised everyone when he announced at his post-flight press conference that he was giving out $100 million "Courage and Civility" awards for two recipients. One recipient was CNN contributor Van Jones. "They can give all to their own charity or they can share their wealth. It's all up to them," Bezos said at his press conference, according to Deadline. Per the Independent, Bezos called the prize a new "philanthropic initiative" that aims to support people and their ideas.

"Sometimes dreams come true," Jones said after Bezos' announcement was made, while adding that "the headlines around the world should be, anything is possible if you believe." Jones later explained that Bezos called him a few days before the space launch about his plans. "He said that he thought that my attempts to try to bring people together across party lines, across racial lines had been inspiring, and can I use some more support," Jones said, emphasizing the money will be used "to give to others who have a similar spirit."

Jeff Bezos gifts $100 million to another lucky recipient

There was a second recipient of Jeff Bezos' "Courage and Civility" award. José Andrés, the renowned chef, restaurateur, and founder of World Central Kitchen, also received $100 million from Bezos following his 11-minute journey into space. "I'm really grateful for this award, and the incredible support from Jeff and the entire Bezos family," Andrés expressed, per Bloomberg. "World Central Kitchen was born from the simple idea that food has the power to create a better world. A plate of food is a plate of hope ... it's the fastest way to rebuild lives and communities."

Andrés founded World Central Kitchen in 2010, a non-profit focused on providing meals to those who are victims of natural disasters. According to the WCK website, they've donated over 36 million meals to 400 cities. This heavy chunk of change from Bezos will help his organization do even more for world hunger. "This award itself cannot feed the world on its own," Andrés said. "But this is the start of a new chapter for us — it will allow us to think beyond the next hurricane to the bigger challenges we face. People of the world: now is the time to think really big, to solve hunger with the fierce urgency of now."

Jeff Bezos previously stepped down at Amazon to focus on philanthropic efforts

Van Jones and José Andrés aren't the only ones who've benefited from Jeff Bezos' generosity. In fact, Bezos stepped down as the Amazon CEO in early July to focus his time on philanthropic efforts, per AP. Bezos made The Chronicle of Philanthropy's annual list of top donations, giving $10 billion of his roughly $200 billion fortune to non-profit organizations focused on climate change, per CBS. Recipients of this money included ClimateWorks Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund, and World Resources Institute, among others, per CBS.

Bezos also gave $200 million to The Smithsonian just days before his flight to space, the museum's biggest donation in its 175-year history, per CNN. $70 million will go to renovating the National Air and Space Museum, while $130 million will be used to launch a new education center. He also donated $100 million to Feeding America, which supplies over 200 food banks across the country.

Bezos' ex-wife MacKenzie Scott, meanwhile, was ranked #2 on The Chronicle of Philanthropy's annual list. She gave $5.7 billion in 2020 after asking community leaders who were in need of donations. She donated seven- and eight-figure gifts to a variety of organizations including food banks and racial-justice groups, and has pledged to give away the majority of her wealth to charity.