On Thursday night, the 2022 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy was awarded to six people and organizations making the world a better place. At a special ceremony in New York City, recipients Dolly Parton, Manu Chandaria, Lyda Hill, Lynn Schusterman, Stacy Schusterman, and the World Central Kitchen were all acknowledged for their outstanding philanthropic efforts, targeting everything from poverty relief in Africa to health care infrastructure. In Parton’s case, the award reflected the good works of her Dollywood Foundation and Imagination Library, through which the superstar has distributed free books to children worldwide, increased college access, and even advanced medical research—famously playing a pivotal role in funding the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (she donated $1 million to its development).

Here, Parton speaks exclusively to Vogue about her philanthropy work, what accomplishments she’s the most proud of to date, and how she remains so positive.

Vogue: Congratulations on being a Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy honoree. How does it feel to receive that acknowledgment?

Dolly Parton: I feel very special being among those folks. I’m proud for what I’m being honored for—especially with the Imagination Library. It’s always nice to be be recognized for what you do, although that’s not why you do it. Some people do, but that’s not why I do it! You take pride in it, but I take more pride in why I’m getting the award. We’ve done so many wonderful things through the Imagination Library; we’ve done great things for children in their young, impressionable years, so that they can learn to read and write.

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I just wrote a song about this. It talks about how you can’t fall under that pressure. It hurts me too—I’m not one for freaking out much, but that don’t mean I don’t stay in touch! It’s like the world’s on fire, and what are we gonna do when it all burns down? How do we heal this great divide? And do we even care enough to try? Can’t we rise above and show some love? I really think we’re on dangerous ground, because people are not even paying attention, and they don’t even seem to care. That’s the scary part—they’re just so locked into their own little world. That’s not a good way to live. So I just try to stay positive. I try to put more good stuff out there, to write songs that will make people think, and pay attention.

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