Angelina Jolie Goes to Washington
09/29/2005 AT 08:00 AM EDT
Her first stop was the ornate Lyndon B. Johnson room of the U.S. Capitol for a Congressional briefing organized by the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS – where someone remarked that she'd given up a night's sleep to attend the meeting.
Jolie, referring to her young children Maddox and Zahara, laughed and replied: "Actually, it was my first night away from the kids, so it probably was the first night I slept for a few hours."
She later joined Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) at the Kennedy Center, where the three were speakers at the coalition's benefit dinner, which raised $1.3 million.
At the Congressional gathering, Jolie sat at a large conference table with Virgin CEO Richard Branson and Sens. Joe Biden, John Kerry and Barbara Boxer, as well as other CEOs and members of Congress. Boxer led off the discussion about pending AIDS legislation, prompting a question from Jolie about where funding would come from. "The U.S. taxpayers," replied Boxer.
Jolie, who occasionally took notes during the session, noted that her newly adopted daughter is an AIDS orphan, and told the group that she was there "to learn more about what I can do. I'm really trying to understand what we've done and haven't done and why."
Afterwards, she told PEOPLE that what most impressed her about the two-hour meeting was "how honest everybody was. ... I was really excited about the idea of working on a vaccine and how close they were and the chances of that. At the end of the day, this has been a wonderful event to learn so many things."
She added: "But to feel everybody's frustration I think was the most surprising. It seems like we're all, every single person sitting here, very aware that there needs to be a lot more done and that no one has the perfect answer."
Still, Jolie left the meeting on an upbeat note. "There's a lot of good will," she said, "but we all need to work much harder."
Speaking at the dinner, Clinton got one of the big laughs of the evening when – in reference to Jolie – she pondered the life of a glamorous movie star. "It's hard being a beautiful celebrity," Clinton said. "I wouldn't know, but I've got to imagine it has to be very difficult."