“Everyone can make a difference—no matter who you are, no matter how old you are, no matter where you are.”

Bill and Kathy Magee are the founders and CEO and president, respectively, of Operation Smile, a worldwide children’s medical charity whose network of global volunteers are dedicated to offering life-changing operations to children born with cleft lips, cleft palates, and other facial deformities. Bill is a leading plastic and craniofacial surgeon with honorary doctorates from six universities and numerous awards including the American Medical Association’s Pride in the Profession Award and the Distinguished Service Award from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Dr. Magee has trained thousands of doctors worldwide, is a keynote speaker, and has been a guest on many television shows. Kathy is a former nurse and social worker and serves on the board of Operation Smile as a full-time volunteer as well as president. The Magees have been the recipients of numerous awards and honors, including the first $1 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, the Servants of Peace Award, and USAID’s President’s Call to Service Award. They are the parents of five and grandparents of thirteen children and reside in Norfolk, Virginia, where Operation Smile is based. (www.OperationSmile.org)

The Interview

A friend of mine at a public relations firm suggested that I contact the Magees. I had heard of Operation Smile through the person who edited my first video for Epiphany. He explained that for as little as $240, doctors could fix one child’s cleft lip. For less than I might pay for some clothes or a plane ticket, I could change someone’s life drastically. So I ended up donating to Operation Smile myself. I spoke with the Magees on the phone while they drove to New York to meet a child from India whom they were helping. Theirs is the only joint epiphany that I have come across. It is amazing to me how much Bill and Kathy have accomplished personally, professionally, and philanthropically over the years. I also am a total romantic, so I loved learning that they have been an item since they were fourteen years old and married for forty-three years, and loved Bill’s explanation of how this has been possible even more:

“Our strengths are very, very different. And I think that that’s good because she does things I could never do, and I do some things that she might not be able to do.”


Kathy and Bill with Kids of Operation Smile

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