Compared to the impassioned dialogue he has delivered in his Oscar-winning movie roles, Sean Penn, the person, stammered through a prepared speech in front of a Brookings Institution audience Monday. Penn was asked to talk about his experiences rebuilding Haiti after the horrific January 2010 earthquake that rattled the island nation and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. In his remarks, Penn noted similarities between running a nongovernmental organization and making movies.

"I've been in Haiti since mid-January 2010. I came with a fresh eye, but not without experience, as you might be surprised to note that creating and sustaining an effective NGO is not unlike producing a film," he said. "As I said several times before, the stakes are immeasurably higher, but the process is nearly identical."

He went on to discuss similarities in financing and staffing but differences in results. "In one case, money adds up to entertainment and given a little care perhaps a few provocative thoughts given to the culture; in the other case, in the NGO case, it adds up to preservation of lives of men, women and children and, with a little luck, human hope and independence," he continued.

Penn also railed against a popular cliche in the NGO community: Don't give them fish, teach them to fish. "What fish? What school? What building inspector? What building code? What materials? Of course, we have to support Haiti with training, parallel training, but that can also be the smokescreen -- 'teach them to fish' -- the smokescreen that leaves hundreds of thousands in unsanitary camps through next year's hurricane season," he said. "We've got to put the fish there."

Penn's event attracted his son Hopper Jack and and friendz Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio,and his wife, Elizabeth, who all sat in the front row.