Ethan Hawke on why 'dialogue about inclusion is extremely important right now'

Gibson Johns,

Ethan Hawke is on a mission to help fix one of the issues facing our everyday lives, and he's partnering with the YMCA to make it happen.

"One of the problems with the way that we live now is that we’re all isolated into our own little microcosms," he explained to AOL Entertainment recently over the phone. "The Y is this free space, though, where everybody is invited and you have a meeting ground with everyone who wants it. We’re all trying to take care of ourselves, and we want the same opportunities for our children."

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Hawke grew up going to camp at his local Y in Austin, Texas. His parents were college students when he was born and sought out the organization to assist them with childcare. When he eventually moved to New York City, Hawke sought refuge at a Brooklyn Y location where he would play basketball. Nowadays, his relationship with the not-for-profit has come full circle, as it's his children who like to spend their time there, too.

The 46-year-old calls the YMCA "one of the pillars of our community that a lot of people take for granted" and don't give it enough credit for the way in which it brings people of different backgrounds together in a safe place.

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"You meet people from all walks of life, and it’s the one of the places that all of the people in your neighborhood would go to," he continued.

It's not lost on Hawke that his work with the YMCA's "For a better us." campaign to promote togetherness and strengthening community bonds is coming at a time when there are so many divisive, hate-filled messages affecting our communities, and it's exactly that that makes his partnership so necessary.

"This kind of dialogue about inclusion is extremely important right now," Hawke told us. "The internet and the news and the papers are all full of so many stories about how we all hate each other and how the country is at odds with itself. There’s so much language being thrown around that’s incredibly divisive and arbitrary."

For a lot of communities, though, seeking out their local Y is a way to suppress that language and interact with supportive, engaging people.

"The YMCA is a really obvious example of how easy it is for communities to be integrated, if there’s a place to do that," he said.

In an effort to reach more young people, part of the "For a better us." campaign involves taking a #SelfieWithSomeoneNew, which is exactly what it sounds like. Finding common ground with others, seeking out unlikely allies and building bridges between communities are all things that Hawke and the YMCA are hoping to encourage youths to do.

"The selfie is a very contemporary idea, but to try to use that not to isolate yourself but to give yourself an excuse to meet someone now is amazing," the actor said. "It symbolizes what the Y is -- simply a meeting ground."

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