Thursday, September 07, 2006

Clay's Presidential appointment

President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities logoMy very wonderful Teevy Boyfriend, Clay Aiken, is to be appointed to be a Member of the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. Here's the press release. Wow! Way to go, Clay!

I guess anyone who hasn't been following Clay's career would be forgiven for wondering if this is just a meaningless "celebrity" appointment - and for having no idea of the considerable experience and dedication Clay will actually bring to this position.

Three years ago during American Idol, Clay said "I want to make a difference. It's not necessarily how I make a difference, but I want to make sure that I do". At the time Simon rubbished his comments and implied that he believed they were a cynical attempt by Clay to gain votes. How wrong he was.

Clay and friends, YMCA summer campClay got his Bachelor's Degree in Special Education from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte in December 2003. He'd been interested in special education for quite a while by that point. As a teenager he had been a YMCA children's camp director; and at 19 he was a substitute teacher for a classroom of students with autism at Brentwood Elementary School.

While studying at Charlotte he had a part-time job as an assistant to Mike Bubel, a boy with autism. Mike's mother, Diane, was the person who persuaded Clay to audition for American Idol. Clay postponed his final semester at Charlotte in order to compete on Idol, and the university allowed him to complete his degree by developing the concept of an imaginary charitable foundation as his final project. During the American Idol concert tour that summer, fans began donating money to Clay's foundation, even though it didn't yet exist.

Clay and Diane Bubel launching the Bubel/Aiken FoundationIn July 2003, just two months after the end of AI, Clay turned the imaginary into reality by co-founding The Bubel/Aiken Foundation with Diane Bubel. By the time the foundation was officially launched, it had already received over $50,000 in donations from fans.

When Clay was a director at the Y he'd been frustrated by the fact that kids with disabilities weren't able to take part in summer camps, because there were no facilities to accomodate them. The Bubel/Aiken Foundation was therefore set up to promote the inclusion of children with disabilities in activities with their non-disabled peers.

Summer camp adThe BAF runs summer camps which welcome children with and without disabilities in an integrated environment, and some camps are run in partnership with the YMCA. BAF also presents Able to Serve awards to support the volunteer efforts of children with physical and mental disabilities, and to encourage them to provide service to others.

The BAF was presented with a $500,000 grant from the US government to develop a curriculum for inclusion to be used in schools across the country. In addition State Farm has granted $1.5 million to The Bubel/Aiken Foundation to help develop a primary education curriculum focused on teaching social and life skills through service to children of all levels of ability.

Clay performing on Jerry Lewis's MDA TelethonOver the last three years Clay has taken part in many benefit events and concerts, including the 2004 Rosalynn Carter Benefit, the America's Promise Benefit, and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The first one I can recall was the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, which took place a couple of days after the end of the AI Tour in September 2003. Jerry introduced him by saying "This for me was the winner from Day 1. This Man." The ClayNation raised over $30,000 for the Telethon.

Clay duetting with Heather Headley at Broadway CaresClay has also been a keynote speaker at the Pacific Rim Conference on Disabilities and the Fearless Caregiver Conference. He was one of the celebrity readers for the Arthur Celebrity Audiobook (Stories for Heroes Series), which benefits the BAF and other charities, and served as spokesperson for the series. He was also a spokesperson for the 2004 Toys for Tots drive, and is an ambassador for the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

In 2004, he was appointed United States Fund for UNICEF National Ambassador, with a mission to help ensure that children everywhere are afforded a primary education. Through his work with UNICEF, he participated in the NBC4 telethon, which raised over $10 million, and recorded public service announcements in support of South Asian tsunami relief. He later recorded a video, featuring the song Give a Little Bit, to be used as a public service announcement to raise money for tsunami victims.

Clay representing UNICEF in Banda AcehIn March 2005, UNICEF sent Clay to the tsunami-stricken area of Banda Aceh in Indonesia to raise awareness for the need to restore education quickly to the children who survived this disaster, in order to provide stability in a time of great loss. In April 2005, on behalf of UNICEF, he appeared before the United States House of Representatives Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs of the Committee on Appropriations.

Clay representing UNICEF in UgandaIn May 2005, UNICEF sent him on another mission, to northern Uganda, to witness the plight of the children known as "night commuters," who flee the villages each night to sleep in streets and shelters in hopes of avoiding being kidnapped by the Lord's Resistance Army.

He also helped raise funds for victims of Hurricane Katrina and served as the spokesperson for the 2005 Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF campaign.

And today he was appointed to the Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. The Committee acts in an advisory capacity to the President and the Secretary of The Department of Health and Human Services on matters relating to programs and services for persons with intellectual disabilities. (This is probably the only time you will see me refer to "the President" in this blog - because I don't consider that GWB has earned the title (or the office) in any way. But that's another story for another post - as I should have realised when I first wrote this piece. But anyway...)

Pretty impressive eh? Congratulations, Clay - I know you'll do a great job.

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Anonymous said...

This is showing that the President of the United States is a learned man. He knows how to pick them. I have all respect for our President I am a citizen of the United
States and will forever support the President whoever he is. Clay clearly deserve the nomination.

webweaver said...

Well, I guess it was only a matter of time before GWB got something right! It had to happen eventually! :)

I do hope that you wouldn't unquestioningly support the president if, say, the American people voted for a candidate akin to Atilla the Hun? Or Stalin?

Questioning your government is what people in a democracy can (and should) do - on a daily basis, IMO.

But I do agree with you that Clay deserved the nomination.

carol said...

I wish people would show some respect to the office of the President. The man has a tough job and it may someday be proven that he right in his decisions. But as far as your comments about Clay, I agree wholeheartedly. No one would be more deserving or more qualified for this post.

TimetravelerPax said...

Thank You for such an interesting summary of Clay's heart, dedication and brain power. The photos and presentation are something that I have saved and will refer to often. Wow, Clay certainly is impressive!! And props to Pres.Bush for seeing what we see in Mr Ambassador.

webweaver said...

A message to anyone who's reading this blog post...

Just a quick clarification of the Bush thing - because I seem to have poked a wee hornet's nest here.

I have no problem with the Office of the President - I respect it no more and no less than the office of any other nation's leader. What I personally have a problem with is this particular incumbent, as I feel he has done absolutely nothing to merit my respect in any way.

This isn't the place to go into all the reasons why - this post is supposed to be about Clay after all, and I don't want to fall out with fellow Clay fans over politics (there's a reason why our political thread is kept separate from the main thread at the CH!).

I would just say, though, that I come from a culture (Britain) where political debate and questioning one's representatives in Parliament is not only acceptable, it's practically mandatory - and the same is true in my adoptive country of New Zealand.

IMO no-one should be above the law, or above being questioned by the people who voted them into office - whatever position they hold. That's one of the characteristics of a democracy, and one which the Founding Fathers fought hard to achieve.

It saddens me to see a situation in which the Office of President appears to have become so revered in itself, that some people no longer feel they have the right (or the will) to question decisions made by the person who happens to be holding that office.

That's dangerous, IMO, because it leaves open the possibility of corruption and deception, which can only flourish when the perpetrators feel they are either above the law, and/or that no-one will question them.

So maybe we should agree to disagree. I acknowledge that some people in the US (currently 33%) approve of the job GWB is doing. Others (currently somewhere above 57%) do not. The percentage of people who disapprove in the rest of the world is even higher. I happen to be one of them. I still love Clay, though! :)

Now if you want to feel really pissed-off with me, you should check out a few of my other recent posts - Bush's latest bullshit and Clues that your country may be turning into a fascist state - those should definitely get you going!

Or maybe you should just ignore them. I think I'd rather we stayed friends and continued to share a mutual admiration of Our Collective Boyfriend. :)

I can't promise I won't bring politics into any more of my Clay posts - I'm a political aminal and it underpins everything I do - but as this is the first time (and honestly I can't imagine there will be too many other times when I feel the need to combine my political opinions with a discussion of my Teevy Boyfriend!), I hope you'll forgive me, and maybe even try to understand where I'm coming from.