Mary Millben: World renowned singer, actress and a true ambassador of peace through music
“Cultural diplomacy is a powerful force toward building bridges and encouraging peace between nations. Serving as a cultural ambassador is my life’s purpose and profession, and what a blessing to foster global friendship through the vehicle of music.”
So said Mary Millben in a social media post not so long ago. In a recent AMAC Better For America podcast interview, host Rebecca Weber, CEO of the Association of Mature American Citizens, introduced her as “a world renowned singer, actress and a true ambassador of peace through music … who went from being an intern at the White House under George W. Bush to being the first American musician invited to attend India’s Independence Day celebration.”
Mary’s singing career had its start when she was 5 years old in the children’s choir at Wildewood Christian Church in Oklahoma City. The political side of her emerged when she interned at the White House under President George W. Bush. She also performed for President Bush and went on to perform for Presidents Obama and Trump. She attributes her success to God and her parents both of whom are retired ministers.
“Our church had a very strong relationship with the political arena, certainly in the state and across America,” she explained. “So, my early days as a teenager had a lot of interfaces and activity with American politics. That really is what spurred my interest as a young person and a young leader, which led me to intern at the White House. It certainly started my career as an entertainer. My first jobs that put bread and butter on my table were singing for both sides of the aisle and [performing at] the Kennedy Center and [other] theaters in Washington, D.C. That led me to New York, Broadway and then India. The rest is history.”
Education Africa is a non-profit that brings educational opportunity and arts education to South Africa’s poorest communities and Mary is its Global Ambassador. It’s a role that she has been training for since she was a child, she said. As she explained it, she was very fortunate to spend a lot of time in youth ministry doing missionary work and now her career has given her “opportunities to do good and help people in need. And so that is the most important part of my career. How can I help someone in need? And so, I was introduced to Education Africa, which is a nonprofit in South Africa. It was started by the late President Nelson Mandela and the late Walter Sisulu. It is one of the preeminent and probably most prominent non-profits in South Africa. It brings educational opportunities to the poorest areas in South Africa.”
Mary went on to explain that her work with Education Africa allows her “to elevate the importance of how we are living our lives and use our careers to better humanity, to make someone else’s life better. My pastor says real success is when you can sit down and say, you know what, today I made someone else’s life better. And that’s what life is all about. That’s what success is all about. And it’s something that I have been blessed to do in the context of Education Africa. The real results that I see and have seen are the children who are going on to college, beautiful children who live in the poorest conditions that you could imagine in Africa, going on to college, going on to careers and being the first in their families to give back. It’s remarkable.”
Before concluding her interview, Mary — who is a conservative Republican — talked about the time President Obama’s team asked her to perform at a Christmas event.
“I remember when I walked out on stage I was introduced as ‘Mary Millben, a Republican for President Obama.’ I remember wondering why did they announce it like that? But I tell you what it did, in a positive way, it opened a great dialog that I was able to have throughout the course of singing for the Obamas about the days when statesmen and stateswomen could, as Republicans or Democrats, sit at the table and talk about policy and engage in hard conversations reminding us all at the table about our commonality as Americans. It allowed me, as an entertainer and a conservative, to speak about a commonality of who we are as Americans. That’s what matters most.”
But it was all about President Trump when Mary talked about her “many great memories being with him and First Lady Melania Trump during their years at the White House. And I would say the most memorable, and there were many memorable moments, was singing for his reelection rally in Orlando. It was the largest rally that he has held to date. I will always remember that moment with President Trump at the Amway Center in Orlando because it was a very culminating moment for me and my career where I gained a greater sense of understanding and appreciation for why we sing the Star-Spangled Banner, why we stop to honor our great country and those who have served, and how, at the end of the day, we’re all Americans.”