Saturday, April 28, 2007

Clay Aiken: Children's Advocacy Award

There was a lot of speculation on why Clay didn't participate in the Idol Gives Back fundraiser on Wednesday, April 25, 2007. Was he asked? Did 'they' diss him? Why won't American Idol acknowledge Clay? 'They' never even mentioned his name. The speculation went on and on.

A A few hours ago, we found out why Clay was not involved on Idol Gives Back.

He had a more pressing commitment.

One Wednesday evening, April 25th, 2007, Clay Aiken was in New York City, participating in and receiving an award from the National Center for Learning Disabilities:

The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) works to ensure that the nation's 15 million children, adolescents and adults with learning disabilities have every opportunity to succeed in school, work and life.

NCLD provides essential information to parents, professionals and individuals with learning disabilities, promotes research and programs to foster effective learning and advocates for policies to protect and strengthen educational rights and opportunities.

Since its beginning, NCLD has been led by passionate and devoted parents committed to creating better outcomes for children, adolescents and adults with learning disabilities.

Founded in 1977 by Pete and Carrie Rozelle as the Foundation for Children with Learning Disabilities, the organization provided leadership, public awareness and grants to support research and innovative practices in learning disabilities.

In 1989 the organization changed its name to the National Center for Learning Disabilities and expanded its mission and scope of work. Anne Ford assumed the role of Chairman of the Board at the time and led the organization for 12 years.

In 2001, John G. Gantz, Jr., past president of Argonaut Insurance Company, succeeded Mrs. Ford. In 2004 the leadership of NCLD was passed to Fred Poses, Chairman and CEO of American Standard Companies.

Throughout its history, NCLD has been guided by a passionate commitment to promoting the success and dignity of individuals affected by learning disabilities, as defined in our Credo:

NCLD Credo:

Let no children be demeaned,
or have their wonder diminished,
because of our ignorance or inactivity;

Let no adults be deprived of discovery,
because we lack the resources to
discover their learning needs;

Let neither children nor adults – ever –
doubt themselves or their minds because
we are unsure of our commitment.

On Wednesday night, they celebrated their 30th Anniversary

NCLD celebrated its 30th anniversary at its annual benefit dinner, "Voices of our Children, Voices of our Future," Wednesday, April 25, 2007 at New York City's Marriott Marquis.

The dinner honored three outstanding individuals who have championed the needs of children with learning disabilities and have given them a strong public voice. You can read more complete biographies by clicking on the names below.

• Arthur Ryan, Chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc., received the Spirit of Achievement Award.

• Clay Aiken, pop music star and special education activist, received the Children's Advocacy Award.

• Donald D. Deshler, Ph.D., professor in the School of Education and director of the Center for Research on Learning at the University of Kansas, received the Distinguished Education Achievement Award.

NCLD has raised $1.6 million annually in the past three years; its goal for 2007 is $2 million, which will go towards the organization's programs and services for children, adolescents and adults. The benefit dinner is the largest single national fundraising event in support of the 15 million individuals nationwide with learning disabilities. It also showcases the Anne Ford Scholarship, given to a high school senior with a diagnosed learning disability who plans to go on to a four-year college. This year's Anne Ford Scholarship winner is Ryan Makinson of Greensboro, N.C..

Clay Aiken was awarded the Children's Advocacy Award

Multi-platinum recording artist Clay Aiken's musical success has enabled him to fulfill his lifelong wish to support educational and children's causes. While the accolades that followed his stunningly close second-place finish on the second season of American Idol have validated him in ways that he never could have dreamed of when he was a teacher working with autistic children back in his home state of North Carolina, it is the charitable work that his musical career has enabled him to do that means more to him than anything else these days.

The singer created the Bubel/Aiken Foundation in 2003, an organization that promotes and funds educational and recreational programs for children with special needs. He also serves as a United States Fund for UNICEF National Ambassador, helping ensure that children everywhere can receive a primary education. In 2006 Mr. Aiken was appointed to the Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

Mr. Aiken holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in special education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

While American Idol decided to raise money for the world's children in a very loud and self-promoting way while pimping itself for ratings, Clay just quietly went about his business, working on behalf of children the world over and accepting an award for his humanitarian efforts for the past four years.

Thank you, Ambassador Aiken.

Photos are from one of the Bubel/Aiken Foundation's very first fundraisers in Raleigh, NC, around December, 2003.

Related Tags: , , , ,

Monday, April 23, 2007

Clay Aiken, UNICEF, and the Power of One

As much as I liked what Lee Iacocca had to say, it's time to go back to Clay.

UNICEF released a statement:

Yesterday was the final day of Clay Aiken's ten day appeal for Afghanistan.

Congratulations! We raised $181,783.03 for the kids of Afghanistan during this ten day campaign. That's $80,000+ more than the original goal we set for this campaign!

This total includes all online gifts made online in the U.S. and Canada. We're expecting some checks to come in through the mail and will post a final total next week.

We appreciate your generous support of this appeal. Hundreds of you posted this appeal on your web sites, blogs and boards and forwarded the campaign to your friends.

My colleagues and I will continue to keep you posted on UNICEF's work in Afghanistan and around the world. We'll show you how your gifts are being put to work in the field.

And in an e-mail, I received this:

UNICEF Ambassador Clay Aiken issued an appeal for the children of Afghanistan at the end of his visit there. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF and Aiken hoped to raise $100,000 for Afghanistan in 10 days. UNICEF donors responded quickly generously. The campaign ended yesterday and raised $181,783.03 to support UNICEF's work in Afghanistan.

Aiken's appeal for Afghanistan was picked up in hundreds of blogs, bulletin boards and fan sites. "We are thrilled with the results of this campaign. We thank the many people who helped us spread the word about the children of Afghanistan and their urgent needs," said Christine Squires. "Clay Aiken's appeal for Afghanistan shows how UNICEF supporters can work together to help children survive."

Along with this:

Today marks the end of Clay Aiken's 10-day appeal for the children of Afghanistan and the end of National Volunteer Week.

Both events remind us of the tremendous power of people working together.

As you'll read in this issue of eNews, fans of UNICEF and Clay Aiken raised over $180,000 for the children of Afghanistan in ten days.

And over the past year, thousands of volunteers across the country have raised funds and awareness for UNICEF and the world's children through a variety of activities—from bake sales to writing to Congress to speaking at local schools.

To all of these UNICEF supporters, so generous with their time as well as their money, we extend our sincerest thanks. Together we are saving children's lives.


Christine Squires
Vice President
U.S. Fund for UNICEF

The Power of One

I remember years ago, watching Jerry Lewis give an interview about Muscular Dystrophy. He said that as important as those huge Corporate donations were, you know the ones I'm talking about, the ones for $7 million, $10 million, $13 million, they still don't replace the $5.00 and $10.00 donations that every day people send in. In fact, he said if it weren't for those $5.00 and $10.00 donations, the MDA wouldn't be where it is today.

The Power of One

I'm going to use this blog tonight as an appeal to anyone who reads it. An appeal for a $5.00 or $10.00 donation to the charity of your choice. For Clay fans, I'm not asking that you do it tonight or tomorrow or this month, or even next month, but sometime this year. Pick a charity and donate just a little bit. Those little bits add up to quite a lot.

The Power of One

I've made a promise to myself. I'm going to go through my house and gather all the old dog collars, leashes, feed bowls, brushes, blankets, anything that I've used on my dogs and don't use anymore and I'm going to donate them to either my local Humane Society or no-kill shelter. And when I put them in my car to drop off, I'm going to stop at the grocery store and pick up a bag of dog food.

I give thanks every day for my wonderful Yellow Lab, Gracie. I can't imagine her in a shelter, alone, afraid, not knowing the love of a 'master', not being able to run in the sunlight and frolic in the yard, chasing squirrels and birds, playing with the neighborhood kids, sunning herself on a soft patch of grass on a lazy Sunday afternoon. And I'm going to start donating that $5.00 or $10.00 every few months. I wish it could be more, but I'm not a rich person. And as Jerry Lewis said, it's the small donations that add up to power.

The Power of One

That power is in your hands. One dollar at a time.

Related Tags: , , , , ,

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Straight Talk about the state of American politics

On the heading of my blog, I said that I'd throw in a 'few things political', so I am. Being a fan of Clay Aiken's has opened my eyes to many things. One thing it has done is make me more politically aware. You see, Clay's fans are smart, very smart. Clay's fans are diverse, very diverse, and Clay's fans are politically aware. Doesn't matter if they are Republicans or Democrats, they are aware. I've read more political sites in the past three years than I have for the past 20 years. Thanks, Clay Nation!

I love straight talking. Don't give me platitudes, sound bites, pandering, pithy phrases, or any kind of moronic posturing, just some straight talk on how, if you're planning on running for Office, how you mean to solve some of the crisis facing America today.

I came across this speech, article, call it whatever, by Lee Iacocca. Yes, he's hawking a book, but what he said really resonated with me.

By Lee Iacocca with Catherine Whitney


I Had Enough?

Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, "Stay the course."

Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!

You might think I'm getting senile, that I've gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don't need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That's not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I've had enough. How about you?

I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have.

My friends tell me to calm down. They say, "Lee, you're eighty-two years old. Leave the rage to the young people." I'd love to—as soon as I can pry them away from their iPods for five seconds and get them to pay attention. I'm going to speak up because it's my patriotic duty. I think people will listen to me. They say I have a reputation as a straight shooter. So I'll tell you how I see it, and it's not pretty, but at least it's real. I'm hoping to strike a nerve in those young folks who say they don't vote because they don't trust politicians to represent their interests. Hey, America, wake up. These guys work for us.

Who Are These Guys, Anyway?

Why are we in this mess? How did we end up with this crowd in Washington? Well, we voted for them—or at least some of us did. But I'll tell you what we didn't do. We didn't agree to suspend the Constitution. We didn't agree to stop asking questions or demanding answers. Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech treason. Where I come from that's a dictatorship, not a democracy.

And don't tell me it's all the fault of right-wing Republicans or liberal Democrats. That's an intellectually lazy argument, and it's part of the reason we're in this stew. We're not just a nation of factions. We're a people. We share common principles and ideals. And we rise and fall together.

Where are the voices of leaders who can inspire us to action and make us stand taller? What happened to the strong and resolute party of Lincoln? What happened to the courageous, populist party of FDR and Truman? There was a time in this country when the voices of great leaders lifted us up and made us want to do better. Where have all the leaders gone?

The Test of a Leader

I've never been Commander in Chief, but I've been a CEO. I understand a few things about leadership at the top. I've figured out nine points—not ten (I don't want people accusing me of thinking I'm Moses). I call them the "Nine Cs of Leadership." They're not fancy or complicated. Just clear, obvious qualities that every true leader should have. We should look at how the current administration stacks up. Like it or not, this crew is going to be around until January 2009. Maybe we can learn something before we go to the polls in 2008. Then let's be sure we use the leadership test to screen the candidates who say they want to run the country. It's up to us to choose wisely.

So, here's my C list:

A leader has to show CURIOSITY. He has to listen to people outside of the "Yes, sir" crowd in his inner circle. He has to read voraciously, because the world is a big, complicated place. George W. Bush brags about never reading a newspaper. "I just scan the headlines," he says. Am I hearing this right? He's the President of the United States and he never reads a newspaper? Thomas Jefferson once said, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter." Bush disagrees. As long as he gets his daily hour in the gym, with Fox News piped through the sound system, he's ready to go.

If a leader never steps outside his comfort zone to hear different ideas, he grows stale. If he doesn't put his beliefs to the test, how does he know he's right? The inability to listen is a form of arrogance. It means either you think you already know it all, or you just don't care. Before the 2006 election, George Bush made a big point of saying he didn't listen to the polls. Yeah, that's what they all say when the polls stink. But maybe he should have listened, because 70 percent of the people were saying he was on the wrong track. It took a "thumping" on election day to wake him up, but even then you got the feeling he wasn't listening so much as he was calculating how to do a better job of convincing everyone he was right.

A leader has to be CREATIVE, go out on a limb, be willing to try something different. You know, think outside the box. George Bush prides himself on never changing, even as the world around him is spinning out of control. God forbid someone should accuse him of flip-flopping. There's a disturbingly messianic fervor to his certainty. Senator Joe Biden recalled a conversation he had with Bush a few months after our troops marched into Baghdad. Joe was in the Oval Office outlining his concerns to the President—the explosive mix of Shiite and Sunni, the disbanded Iraqi army, the problems securing the oil fields. "The President was serene," Joe recalled. "He told me he was sure that we were on the right course and that all would be well. 'Mr. President,' I finally said, 'how can you be so sure when you don't yet know all the facts?'" Bush then reached over and put a steadying hand on Joe's shoulder. "My instincts," he said. "My instincts." Joe was flabbergasted. He told Bush, "Mr. President, your instincts aren't good enough." Joe Biden sure didn't think the matter was settled. And, as we all know now, it wasn't.

Leadership is all about managing change—whether you're leading a company or leading a country. Things change, and you get creative. You adapt. Maybe Bush was absent the day they covered that at Harvard Business School.

A leader has to COMMUNICATE. I'm not talking about running off at the mouth or spouting sound bites. I'm talking about facing reality and telling the truth. Nobody in the current administration seems to know how to talk straight anymore. Instead, they spend most of their time trying to convince us that things are not really as bad as they seem. I don't know if it's denial or dishonesty, but it can start to drive you crazy after a while. Communication has to start with telling the truth, even when it's painful. The war in Iraq has been, among other things, a grand failure of communication. Bush is like the boy who didn't cry wolf when the wolf was at the door. After years of being told that all is well, even as the casualties and chaos mount, we've stopped listening to him.

A leader has to be a person of CHARACTER. That means knowing the difference between right and wrong and having the guts to do the right thing. Abraham Lincoln once said, "If you want to test a man's character, give him power." George Bush has a lot of power. What does it say about his character? Bush has shown a willingness to take bold action on the world stage because he has the power, but he shows little regard for the grievous consequences. He has sent our troops (not to mention hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens) to their deaths—for what? To build our oil reserves? To avenge his daddy because Saddam Hussein once tried to have him killed? To show his daddy he's tougher? The motivations behind the war in Iraq are questionable, and the execution of the war has been a disaster. A man of character does not ask a single soldier to die for a failed policy.

A leader must have COURAGE. I'm talking about balls. (That even goes for female leaders.) Swagger isn't courage. Tough talk isn't courage. George Bush comes from a blue-blooded Connecticut family, but he likes to talk like a cowboy. You know, My gun is bigger than your gun. Courage in the twenty-first century doesn't mean posturing and bravado. Courage is a commitment to sit down at the negotiating table and talk.

If you're a politician, courage means taking a position even when you know it will cost you votes. Bush can't even make a public appearance unless the audience has been handpicked and sanitized. He did a series of so-called town hall meetings last year, in auditoriums packed with his most devoted fans. The questions were all softballs.

To be a leader you've got to have CONVICTION—a fire in your belly. You've got to have passion. You've got to really want to get something done. How do you measure fire in the belly? Bush has set the all-time record for number of vacation days taken by a U.S. President—four hundred and counting. He'd rather clear brush on his ranch than immerse himself in the business of governing. He even told an interviewer that the high point of his presidency so far was catching a seven-and-a-half-pound perch in his hand-stocked lake.

It's no better on Capitol Hill. Congress was in session only ninety-seven days in 2006. That's eleven days less than the record set in 1948, when President Harry Truman coined the term do-nothing Congress. Most people would expect to be fired if they worked so little and had nothing to show for it. But Congress managed to find the time to vote itself a raise. Now, that's not leadership.

A leader should have CHARISMA. I'm not talking about being flashy. Charisma is the quality that makes people want to follow you. It's the ability to inspire. People follow a leader because they trust him. That's my definition of charisma. Maybe George Bush is a great guy to hang out with at a barbecue or a ball game. But put him at a global summit where the future of our planet is at stake, and he doesn't look very presidential. Those frat-boy pranks and the kidding around he enjoys so much don't go over that well with world leaders. Just ask German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who received an unwelcome shoulder massage from our President at a G-8 Summit. When he came up behind her and started squeezing, I thought she was going to go right through the roof.

A leader has to be COMPETENT. That seems obvious, doesn't it? You've got to know what you're doing. More important than that, you've got to surround yourself with people who know what they're doing. Bush brags about being our first MBA President. Does that make him competent? Well, let's see. Thanks to our first MBA President, we've got the largest deficit in history, Social Security is on life support, and we've run up a half-a-trillion-dollar price tag (so far) in Iraq. And that's just for starters. A leader has to be a problem solver, and the biggest problems we face as a nation seem to be on the back burner.

You can't be a leader if you don't have COMMON SENSE. I call this Charlie Beacham's rule. When I was a young guy just starting out in the car business, one of my first jobs was as Ford's zone manager in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. My boss was a guy named Charlie Beacham, who was the East Coast regional manager. Charlie was a big Southerner, with a warm drawl, a huge smile, and a core of steel. Charlie used to tell me, "Remember, Lee, the only thing you've got going for you as a human being is your ability to reason and your common sense. If you don't know a dip of horseshit from a dip of vanilla ice cream, you'll never make it." George Bush doesn't have common sense. He just has a lot of sound bites. You know—Mr.they'll-welcome-us-as-liberators-no-child-left-behind-heck-of-a-job-Brownie-mission-accomplished Bush.

Former President Bill Clinton once said, "I grew up in an alcoholic home. I spent half my childhood trying to get into the reality-based world—and I like it here."

I think our current President should visit the real world once in a while.

The Biggest C is Crisis

Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It's easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory. Or send someone else's kids off to war when you've never seen a battlefield yourself. It's another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down.

On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes. Where was George Bush? He was reading a story about a pet goat to kids in Florida when he heard about the attacks. He kept sitting there for twenty minutes with a baffled look on his face. It's all on tape. You can see it for yourself. Then, instead of taking the quickest route back to Washington and immediately going on the air to reassure the panicked people of this country, he decided it wasn't safe to return to the White House. He basically went into hiding for the day—and he told Vice President Dick Cheney to stay put in his bunker. We were all frozen in front of our TVs, scared out of our wits, waiting for our leaders to tell us that we were going to be okay, and there was nobody home. It took Bush a couple of days to get his bearings and devise the right photo op at Ground Zero.

That was George Bush's moment of truth, and he was paralyzed. And what did he do when he'd regained his composure? He led us down the road to Iraq—a road his own father had considered disastrous when he was President. But Bush didn't listen to Daddy. He listened to a higher father. He prides himself on being faith based, not reality based. If that doesn't scare the crap out of you, I don't know what will.

A Hell of a Mess

So here's where we stand. We're immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving. We're running the biggest deficit in the history of the country. We're losing the manufacturing edge to Asia, while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs. Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy. Our schools are in trouble. Our borders are like sieves. The middle class is being squeezed every which way. These are times that cry out for leadership.

But when you look around, you've got to ask: "Where have all the leaders gone?" Where are the curious, creative communicators? Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, competence, and common sense? I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the point.

Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo? We've spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened.

Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina. Congress has yet to spend a single day evaluating the response to the hurricane, or demanding accountability for the decisions that were made in the crucial hours after the storm. Everyone's hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn't happen again. Now, that's just crazy. Storms happen. Deal with it. Make a plan. Figure out what you're going to do the next time.

Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing. Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when "the Big Three" referred to Japanese car companies? How did this happen—and more important, what are we going to do about it?

Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debt, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem. The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry.

I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn't elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody so afraid of? That some bobblehead on Fox News will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don't you guys show some spine for a change?

Had Enough?

Hey, I'm not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here. I'm trying to light a fire. I'm speaking out because I have hope. I believe in America. In my lifetime I've had the privilege of living through some of America's greatest moments. I've also experienced some of our worst crises—the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam War, the 1970s oil crisis, and the struggles of recent years culminating with 9/11. If I've learned one thing, it's this: You don't get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether it's building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play. That's the challenge I'm raising in this book. It's a call to action for people who, like me, believe in America. It's not too late, but it's getting pretty close. So let's shake off the horseshit and go to work. Let's tell 'em all we've had enough.

Excerpted from Where Have All the Leaders Gone?. Copyright © 2007 by Lee Iacocca. All rights reserved.

Related Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, April 16, 2007

Clay Aiken's UNICEF FieldNotes

UNICEF Ambassador Clay Aiken wrote this blog post for Fieldnotes, reflecting on his visit to UNICEF field sites in Afghanistan.

It's not that fun being wrong.
Fortunately for me, I don't have to do it very often! HA HA!
Okay... I'm kidding. I spend plenty of my time on the side of inaccuracy. But, few of my misdirections or misconceptions could possibly compare to how far off of the mark I was in my assumptions about my trip to Afghanistan.

I doubt it would come as a surprise that my mother was none too thrilled when I told her I would be traveling with UNICEF to a country that many consider to be one of the most dangerous in the world for Americans. My brother had just returned from his second tour as a U.S. Marine in Iraq when I let my mother know, so her blood pressure probably stayed high even after my return. I wasn't so at ease about it myself. Hostage takings, suicide bombings, and insurgent attacks are all seemingly daily occurrences in many parts of the country. At least that's what we see on TV and read in papers and magazines.

I couldn't have been more wrong about Afghanistan. And I couldn't have been farther off target about the Afghan people. With the exception of maybe my grandparent's house, I have never felt more welcomed. The Afghan people are some of the most gracious and inviting people on Earth.

After centuries of having their land filled with travelers and explorers, I guess they have hospitality down to an instinctive science. Everywhere we traveled we were greeted with warmth and welcome. Even on the streets of Kabul and the rugged hills of Bamyan. But nowhere as gracious as the schools and UNICEF programs that we visited. Despite the most meager accommodations, we were always invited in and shown every simple resource with the utmost of pride.

And, why shouldn't they be proud. Until a few years ago, most of these students were forbidden by the Taliban regime from going to school. And now?.... Now over 6 million children are piling into broken down buildings and UNICEF tents everyday to catch up on the lessons that they have missed out on for years. That's if they are lucky. Many, if not most, haven't even the luxury of a tent. Just a dusty ground outside in one of the world's most beautifully scenic landscapes. And still, they come to class. Many walk for miles; for hours.

With frankness I'll tell you, there is little to show off at these schools. The schools I visited had such limited resources that most made the average American 3 year-old's bedroom look like a learning lab. I can remember my own collection of books as a 2nd grader, and it looked liked the Library of Congress compared to the school library I saw at a school for over 2000 students. (And, I doubt I ever read half of them.)

Yet, the hunger and desire to read and to learn is so strong that, despite no enforced laws making schools compulsory in Afghanistan, children are clamoring to go to schools.

As I saw on my trip, UNICEF is there. UNICEF is providing tents so children can study away from the elements. UNICEF is struggling to provide school supplies to every young boy and girl in Afghanistan who wants to learn. UNICEF is providing literacy courses for women who have been forbidden far too long from a right of education that so many of us take for granted. But there is so much more that needs to be done.

Afghanistan is so far from the "lost cause" that I had expected to find in the rugged hills of south Asia. It is, I believe, one of the world's countries with the most potential. The people are perhaps it's most valuable natural resource. They are determined to break through the years of oppression they have endured. They are sponges for knowledge, and poised for success.

Winter is over in Afghanistan. It's time to get ready for amazing growth in Afghanistan's spring.

The people... make that the COUNTRY of Afghanistan showed me and my fellow travelers such AMAZING hospitality despite meager means.
As a people of substantially more means... we can help UNICEF return the favor.

Posted by Clay Aiken, UNICEF USA on April 16, 2007 4:48 PM

If you can find it in your heart to help these children who have never even dared to dream of the educational riches that American children take for granted, please click on Clay's
UNICEF page. A $5.00 or $10.00 donation will improve their lives in ways we, as Americans, can't imagine.

Related Tags: , ,

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Clay Aiken UNICEF update!

According to UNICEF's thermometer, in just over 48 hours, Clay's fans have raised about 90% of the $100,000 that he asked for.

Take a look at that thermometer. Yep, about 90% in about 48 hours.

We can make a difference in this world. Just ask Clay.

Related Tags: ,

Friday, April 13, 2007

Clay Aiken, UNICEF, and $100,000 in 10 Days

Clay's challenge? $100,000.00 in 10 days

Can it be done? Let's see...

Clay said:

I've been visiting UNICEF field locations in Afghanistan for the past week. Today, I'm writing to tell you what I've seen and ask for your help.

On my trip, I met Fwazia (we’re in the picture on the right). She is 11 years old. Fwazia attends a unique school where boys and girls from grades 1-9 share classes and study in the open. The school is in urgent need of funding to buy tents and materials to build a new school. This will give more children the opportunity to go to school.

Let's aim high and work together to raise $100,000 in 10 days to support UNICEF's work in Afghanistan. Join me in standing with UNICEF to support the kids of Afghanistan.

Give online with confidence. If you contribute $50 or more by April 22nd, UNICEF will e-mail you my exclusive field report, in a PDF file format, with some of my own photos from the trip that won't appear anywhere else. As my personal thanks to those of you who are able to donate $1,000 or more, we'll mail an autographed copy of my report.

The children in Afghanistan need help now. Please join me in making a donation today.


Clay Aiken
UNICEF Ambassador

P.S. I'm so inspired by the change we can make together. Please pass this message on to your friends and family asking them to support UNICEF's work.

If you're so inspired to donate to help the children of Afghanistan, please visit the UNICEF site.

Seems like a lot of people have been moved to support the children in Afghanistan. So far, we've raised about $75,000! How many days did Clay give us? Ten? That $75,000 was raised in 48 hours! Way to go, people! Way to go! And way to go, Ambassador Aiken!

Here's a direct link to help Clay's cause:
$100,000 in 10 days

Related Tags: , , ,

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Clay Aiken, UNICEF Ambassador


Idol Star Spotlights Afghanistan
Thursday, 12 April 2007, 12:20 pm
Press Release: United Nations
‘American Idol’ Star And UNICEF Ambassador Clay Aiken Spotlights Afghanistan
New York, Apr 11 2007 5:00PM

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador and singer Clay Aiken is currently on his first visit to Afghanistan, aiming to raise awareness about the hope and promise he has seen in the young people of the war-torn country.

“The people here are very strong and they are very proud of their country,” Mr. Aiken told reporters in Kabul today, praising the “strength and conviction of the Afghan people and their ability to make sure that this country returns to its glory after such a long darkness.”

The singer, who gained a name on the televised talent competition ‘American Idol,’ has been a Goodwill Ambassador since 2004, has been in Afghanistan for the past week to see first-hand the grassroots health and education projects being delivered by UNICEF.

“It has been a long winter for Afghanistan and it is Spring time finally,” he said, adding that he is “thrilled” to be associated with UNICEF’s support for the country’s rebuilding efforts.

Traveling with UNICEF country representative for Afghanistan Catherine Mbengue and his high school teacher Mary Props, Mr. Aiken has visited schools in Kabul and in Bamiyan.

In Kabul, he met young women at Macfee High School who “have an amazing positive outlook on their future now,” he said.

Mr. Aiken called Bamiyan one of the most beautiful places he has ever seen, and mentioned one school he visited there in particular where boys and girls were being educated together. He also visited clinics where he had the opportunity to administer polio vaccine to a newborn baby.

“I have never in my life seen such a thirst and an excitement for learning,” he said, joking that his former teacher, Ms. Props, was very jealous of how eager students in Afghanistan are to attend school.

Calling the people of Afghanistan the country’s “greatest natural resource,” Mr. Aiken said that he also hopes to inform people in the United States, who he said too often associate Afghanistan with conflicts, troops and military activities, of the genuine desire on the part of children to learn.
“If we did see more about the kids [in the media], we will see more positive support and help,” noted Mr. Aiken.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Clay Aiken, Humanitarian

By Rockysmom:

The night of the UNICEF snowflake light ceremony I wrote...

In NYC tonight....
There is the light of a brillant star
One made of many facets of the purest shining crystal
One that is meant to be a symbol of hope for all the world's children
One that is beautiful and precious beyond compare
It's not the one made of Baccarat and suspended high above the streets
It's the one we know and love and hold dearly in our hearts

You're beautiful Clay...inside and out....and the world is just beginning to see what we've known all along.

And now, almost 5 months later, the light from that beautiful, precious star is shining half a world away. Unlike this past UNICEF event he won't be waiting inside Tiffany's surrounded by the trappings of opulence and wealth, or returning to the security of an elegant, well-appointed hotel suite. He's in a country where he is, instead, surrounded by the constant reminders of decades long war, upheaval, and oppression. He's spending his days and nights in places where snipe attacks and suicide bombings are a fact of life.

His famous face won't help him get to the front of a fact, it's important for his own safety that he alter his appearance slightly, to blend in with the people he so desperately wants to help. There are women in this far off land desperate for vaccinations for their children but locals are too frightened to help them; it's too dangerous for them to do. But he does it and makes a joke about it besides.

And so a little more of the world sees what we have seen and learns what we have known for just a little more than four years wonderful and precious and beautiful this man truly is.

God speed you safely home, Clay. You carry our prayers and our love with you where ever you may be.

Related Tags: , ,

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Clay Aiken, Jim Johnson, and Jason McElwain

Last night, Clay Aiken held a Champions of Change Gala in Raleigh, NC to benefit his charity, The Bubel/Aiken Foundation. From all reports, a good time was had by all. Held at the Cardinal Club, a dinner of either steak or salmon was served, Clay took pictures with some of the attendees, and he held an auction. The auction raised well over $174,000.00 with the biggest item, a signed, original music and lyrics of 'Lover All Alone' going for $55,000.00.

Linda Lovelace, WRAL news anchor from Raleigh was the Emcee of the event and in attendance was Diane Bubel, the co-founder of the foundation, Kristy Barnes, President and COO of the BAF, Faye Parker, one of the Board of Directors, Jaymes Foster, Clay's Executive Producer.

The honorees at this event were presented with the Champions of Change Award. They are:
State Farm Insurance
Beta Alpha Volunteers
Coach Jim Johnson
Jonathan Bunzey, Youth Honoree

I remember Jim Johnson and his amazing basktball manager, Jason McElwain, from the TV coverage about this basketball game. Coach Johnson works for Rochester, NY's Greece Athena High School as the varsity basketball coach. Jason McElwain is a student with autism who Coach Johnson let suit up for the last game. With just over four minutes left to play, Coach Johnson told McElwain to play ball. The crowd erupted in cheers when McElwain took to the court. His first two shots missed the basket but then a wondrous thing happened. McElwain shot his next six balls for six three-pointers. After each shot, the crowd grew a little more wild until the end, when they carried McElwain off the court on their shoulders. Rochester won the game 79-43 and to cap the season off, the Team captured the first section 5 title of Coach Johnson's career.

"My first shot was an air ball (missing the hoop), by a lot, then I missed a lay-up," McElwain recalls. "As the first shot went in, and then the second shot, as soon as that went in, I just started to catch fire." "I felt like a celebrity!" he beamed.

"I've had a lot of thrills in coaching," Johnson says. "I've coached a lot of wonderful kids. But I've never experienced such a thrill."

McElwain's mother sees it as a milestone for her son.

"This is the first moment Jason has ever succeeded (and could be) proud of himself," reflects Debbie McElwain. "I look at autism as the Berlin Wall, and he cracked it."

What a wonderful moment for this extrodinary young man. Watch the video to see it again:

This experience happened because the coach of a high school basketball team wanted to give his Team Manager, who happens to be autistic, a chance to get a basket. All Jason needed was a chance. That's all most people with disabilities need....a chance.

The Bubel/Aiken Foundation exists to give those children that chance. A chance to be included with other children, children without disabilities, children who live their lives free of the physical or mental inequalities. All any child wants is a chance to be included. The BAF is well on it's way to make that happen for a number of children this year.

The Bubel/Aiken Foundation and Youth Service America are pleased to announce the grantees of the Clay Aiken Able-to-Serve grants for National & Global Youth Service Day, April 20-22, 2007. These awards of up to $1,000 support youth-led service projects in which youth with and without disabilities serve their communities together. A selection of the service themes include: emergency preparedness, building wheelchair accessible gardens, disability awareness, and building intergenerational relationships.

The Clay Aiken Able-to-Serve projects for National & Global Youth Service Day 2007:

* Forty-five youth from Hutchinson, Kansas will plant trees along a popular walking trail and dedicate a plaque to commemorate their efforts reminding future visitors on the trail that youth of all abilities can make valuable contributions to their communities.

* After learning that scent-trailing dogs have difficulty tailing people with Down’s syndrome, Hillary, age 19, from Brewer, Maine was awarded a grant to launch a public service campaign about this topic alongside 25 youth with and without disabilities. They will reach out to police who will share the information with the National Down’s Syndrome Society, bloodhound training organizations, and search and rescue organizations.

* Tiffany, age 18, from Lynn, Massachusetts was awarded a grant to tackle the overcrowding and violence she has witnessed in her community public parks. She will lead 20 youth from the Part of the Solution Youth Council to mobilize their community and launch five simultaneous park clean-ups. The youth will petition the city to replace basketball hoops.

* Ashley, age 18 from Sparta, Michigan was awarded the grant to implement a project in which special education students who run the high school ice-cream shop train students from the National Honor Society in ice cream preparation. Following the training, both groups of students will plan an ice-cream social together for elders in the community.

* Fifty members of the Paraquad Youth from St. Louis, Missouri will assist The Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition’s resale clothing store and the Circle of Concern food pantry. Extended interactions among low-income youth, youth in foster care, and youth with disabilities will work to challenge assumptions and stereotypes.

* In Cranford, New Jersey, 300 students and community members will prepare garden beds for spring planting at two schools and one senior housing complex. Students will design, budget, and plant the community gardens.

* Youth in Durham, North Carolina, will convene two community forums to highlight best practices for public safety, human service professionals, and people with disabilities. One panel will focus on the interaction of the police department with the disability community and the second panel will focus on the interaction between EMS, the fire department, and the disability community.

* In Salem, Ohio, 40 students with learning and cognitive disabilities, in partnership with vocational education students, and with the assistance of a high school horticulture class, will design and landscape the Salem Storybook Museum. The Museum provides reading programs for 2,860 youth who are not proficient readers.

* Matt, age 20, from Carbondale, Pennsylvania won the grant to mobilize 30 youth to create an interactive information and snack station in conjunction with Healthy Kids Day. The group will educate the community about health and well-being from good nutrition and exercise. The Youth Board of the Carbondale YMCA will recruit youth from other youth-serving organizations.

* More than 150 younger youth between the ages of five and 14 from Abingdon, Virginia, will create wheelchair accessible gardens for children with severe disabilities to use as areas for physical and mental therapy. The group will collaborate with local high school students studying horticulture to develop a plan and will collaborate with students in the 4H Future Farmers Forum for construction and summer maintenance. Students with disabilities will water and monitor the growth of the plants, assisted by non-disabled 4th and 5th graders.

Full profiles of the grantees are at the Youth Service Day web site.

The Bubel/Aiken Foundation provides services and financial assistance to promote the full integration of children with disabilities into the life environment of those without. The Foundation strives to create awareness about the diversity of individuals with disabilities and the possibilities that inclusion can bring. To learn more about The Bubel/Aiken Foundation or ways to get involved visit their Web site.

Special thanks goes to Berkeleylovesourclay for compiling all the information about Clay and his charities. She's a special lady.

Heartfelt thanks go to all the clackgatherers without whom our Clay lives would be that much poorer. Invisible 926, Irishbookgal, thanks for sharing your pictures from the Gala.

Quotes taken from

Related Tags: , , , , , , ,