Sunday, April 29, 2007

Memories of AI2: Top 6 -- "I Could Not Ask For More" than an Idol like Clay Aiken

Top 6 Week
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April 23, 2003 was Diane Warren week on American Idol 2 with Diane as the guest judge. Clay sang "I Could Not Ask For More" in a black leather jacket. Yum. The night before was the hour-long Halfway Home special which was hosted by Ryan Seacrest. The judges did not appear on this show. Each contestant got their own segment, consisting of a video montage, a short interview with Ryan, and a performance of a song previously done on the series. Clay was on last. In his interview, he discussed his love for teaching and how the show's stylists helped him improve his look. Clay sang "Somewhere Out There" from movie night, this time hitting the last note which he warbled on previously. The show closed with a group sing of "All Night Long".

~Performance of "I Could Not Ask For More"~


Randy: Yo, yo, what's up, dawg, what chu doin', man? Clay, you know what, you know what's funny? I keep thinkin about this contest we're doin', and I think we're tryin' to find the best that we can find in America, an' dude, every week you come up with it, dawg, you're definitely one of the best in America, dawg. Gotta give it up!
Paula: Another wonderful week. Great vocal performance. I really think that the only bit of constructive criticism for you, and I'm not gonna say dance, I promise, is just continue down the path of being truthful to who you are as an artist. Let go and continue. Your voice is the star, and just keep goin', you're a definite contender for the finals.
Diane Warren: Wonderful, Sarah Evans did a great version, Edwin King did a great version, and now Clay did a great version. Beautiful, excellent! I love your voice. Thank you!
Randy: Simon Cowell? You have anything to add?
Simon: Well, I mean, if I, it's, you know, ahhh, blab blab blab blab blab (tongue tangling), if I was gonna give you advice, which you probably wouldn't listen, but anyway, I would say as a Broadway artist, you will make a fortune on the back of this. I just don't see you as what we were looking for originally, which was a great (fans uproar in background), a recording artist. That 's not to say that you haven't got a great talent, you have, but when I was talking about, if I was casting for Phantom of the Opera or something, you'd get the part, and that's not being rude. Because you've got that type voice.
Randy: You talkin' 'bout that show with that mask?
Simon: No, not Mr Personality.
Randy: Oh, right, yeah, yeah, ya not that show .
Simon: But you know what I'm saying. That's why I'm trying to be a bit more constructive this week as to... I don't know what...
Diane: Simon, I have a t-shirt for you...
Randy: Diane has a gift for you, Simon...
Diane: You need to wear this t-shirt...
Randy: Hold that up Simon it's for you...
Simon: (reading shirt) "Sorry, I don't do nice" OK, but well done!

~"Somewhere Out There" Performance on the Halfway Home Show~

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Today: A Morning Surprise

Clay paid a visit to the Today Show this morning which was a total surprise to the fans---a very nice surprise. He was there to talk about his recent trip to Afghanistan for UNICEF. As always, he was articulate and passionate about one of the causes near to his heart. He discussed the readiness of people to rebuild their country, the thirst for education in children and women, the kindness of the Afghan people, and the need for access to education.

You can watch the interview here:


Clay being Clay also a bit of fun with some fans outside of the Today studio.

Clay also gave an interview to MSNBC before his Today Show interview:

Q: When did you get back from Afghanistan, how long were you there and what were you doing?

Clay Aiken: I got back on Wednesday, and I was there for about two weeks. It was a really eye-opening experience and was interesting because a lot of stereotypes were broken down for me. The people there were wonderfully nice, and the country was really beautiful and peaceful. It was a little surprising because of all the news we hear from over there.

[Clay sees a video clip of President Bush dancing with a Senegalese dance troupe in the Rose Garden on Wednesday]

What in the world is he doing? Please, be joking.

[He regains his train of thought.]

I was observing programs run by UNICEF, observing schools where women are getting an education, often for the first time in their lives.

Q: Why were you particularly attracted to this trip?

CA: I used to be a teacher. I was a special-ed teacher in North Carolina, so there was some synergy there.

Q: You're familiar with our "Where in the World is Matt Lauer" series, which begins on Monday. What's the most interesting place you've been to, and where would you like to go that you haven't been to before?

CA: Well, definitely Afghanistan was the most interesting place. Not just because it was exotic and dangerous, to some degree, but also because it is so beautiful and peaceful. It's the third country I've been to with UNICEF -- I had previously been to Uganda and Indonesia. But I had never been to a place that beautiful and peaceful.

As for a place I'd like to go...I'd like to go to Zanzibar. I imagine it's beautiful, and it makes me sound smart to say I know where it is.

Q: Apparently there's a version of "American Idol" in Afghanistan -- did you see it?

CA: It's called "Afghan Star," and I didn't get to see it.

Q: Have you been able to follow the current season of "American Idol"?

CA: I haven't seen any of it.

Q: Have you heard anything about Sanjaya and his performances?

CA: We were actually in India when everything was happening with him, and people over there were talking about it.

Q: The big entertainment news today is that Rosie O'Donnell is leaving "The View" in June. Any reaction?

CA: Good for her. Do what you want to do. But she will be missed on that show. But I'm sure she'll do something just as big and fantastical -- if that's a word -- as she did when she was on "The View."

Q: What's next for you?

CA: I have a tour coming up this summer. It starts July 4 in Dallas, and tickets are on sale now.

Update on Clay's $100,000 in Ten Days for Afghanistan Appeal: According to the UNICEF Field Notes blog, a total of $181,783.03 was raised, 82% more than the goal. Congratulations to Clay and all the supporters of the Appeal.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Memories of AI2: Top 7 -- "Tell Her About It" and throw me a vote or two

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April 15, 2003 -- Billy Joel Week with guest judge Smokey Robinson. Clay sings "Tell Her About It" starting the song in a slow tempo and then takes a surprising turn by taking the song uptempo to change it up. Simon is a bit of an ass this week by saying he prefers Clay with his eyes closed. I for one, prefer him with my eyes and ears open.

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Judges' Comments:
Randy: Yo, baby, I just got one thing to say, man, it's good to see you switch it up! Yeah, you did your thing, man, you did your thing, dawg.
Smokey Robinson: You normally do sing ballads, but you proved tonight that you can sing anything. It was terrific.
Clay: Thank you very much.
Paula: Smokey, I just gotta say I love your eyes so much, I was always in love with you, I just had to say that. Clay..... you have such a great voice, I love it, I love it, I just can't wait to see you just let loose and dance a little more. Please, please, just for me?
Clay: I'm workin up to it. Slow, baby steps.
Paula: Thank you!
Simon: You're drunk again....
Paula: No, it's just that you didn't take your happy pill, that's all.
Simon: Clay, don't take this the wrong way, but I prefer you when I shut my eyes...
Randy: What does that mean????
Simon: It's a compliment, it's a compliment, it's your facial expressions...,I find them a bit theatrical, but you've got such a great voice... if you could just calm down that weird thing you do with your face...
Randy: Can you do it, Simon? What he does?
Simon: I'm not gonna do it.... but it's a compliment 'cause he sounds great...
Paula: Nice backhanded compliment.
Ryan: You know, it's funny, 'cause I prefer Simon when my eyes are closed!

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Day 8: FieldNotes Update

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On Day 8 of Clay's 10-Day $100,000 Afghanistan Appeal, $161,798.82 has been raised as of 9:00 am this morning. This includes money donated by Canadian fans. A message has been passed on by UNICEF Canada Ambassador Ben Mulroney,

"We were excited to see Clay’s Canadian fans join this campaign with such enthusiasm and generosity," said Ben Mulroney. "Thank you so much to Clay and all his fans for your support!"

Two more days to go. To donate go to the Unicef Afghanistan donation form. Every little bit helps.

~A thank you from Clay~

Clay will also be on Entertainment Tonight on Friday discussing his recent trip to Afghanistan. You can see a video and text of his interview on the ET Website.

Excerpt: "It was interesting," he says. "I was actually in Kabul at the same time DIANE SAWYER was, and she was at a hotel less than a mile away from where we were. We were trying to get together for dinner, but we couldn't because she couldn't leave her hotel and I couldn't leave mine [at night]. That's the situation in Kabul."

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

An Idol Giving Back

The following is Clay Aiken's blog at Fieldnotes: Blogging on UNICEF's child survival work in the field . Please visit the site for more on Clay and other UNICEF projects.

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.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Memories of AI2: Top 8 -- "At This Moment" and every moment, Clay Aiken does his fans proud

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On April 8, 2003, AI2 had their Billboard #1 song theme show. Lionel Richtie is the guest judge. Clay "At This Moment" by Billy Vera and the Beaters.

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~Performance of "At This Moment~

Judges' Comments:
Randy: Yo, yo, Clay, what's up dawg, what's up baby?
Clay: How are ya?
Randy: how do ya feel, baby, good?
Clay: OK!
Randy: First up tonight, that's good. Listen, it's definitely been proven week after week that you can definitely really, really, sing...,but the choice of song this week, and even a little bit last week, didn't really slay me, I mean, to me it just makes it a little bit... it shows a little less of your voice, it brings out the theatricalness in it, but I think that you can definitely blow, but I just wasn't crazy about the song.
Lionel Ritchie: Well, let me tell you how I feel about this. First of all, I am still in awe that all of that is coming out of that body. Unbelievable. Can't get over it. Who is that guy? I don't know, who are you? The most important thing is that, you know, Randy, it's all in the selection of the song, and even the fact that the song, if I had another choice, it would be another song, but the fact that you just pulled that off with such power and such conviction... you... I think you did a great job, man, great job.
Paula: You know I'm a big fan of yours, don't you? Clay, here's the thing... I agree with what Lionel's saying, it was good. The only thing that I think is it's a gutwrenching song, and I didn't feel that there was enough urgency, or heartbreak, but I'm a huge fan, as always.
Simon: Well this show proves that Randy Jackson hasn't got a clue what he's talkin about because that song was perfect.
Randy: Yeah, right, yeah, right.
Simon: Absolutely on the money, well done.

Performances of the Night:
1. Clay Aiken- "AT This Moment" (Billy Vera & the Beaters)
2. Kimberley Locke-"My Heart Will Go On" (Celine Dion)
3. Ricky Smith- "Endless Love" (Lionel Richie and Diana Ross)
4. Kimberly Caldwell -"Everything I Do, I Do It For You" (Bryan Adams)
5. Josh Gracin- "Amazed" (Lonestar)
6. Carmen Rasmusen- "Call Me" (Blondie)
7. Trenyce-"Power of Love" (Celine Dion)
8. Ruben Studdard- "Kiss and Say Goodbye" (The Manhattans)

~~Images from the performance and results shows~~

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Clay in Afghanistan

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~~UNICEF Ambasaador Clay Aiken met with Nasrin in Afghanistan. She is 11 and is in school with 1,050 other girls. There are only 16 teachers. The community urgently needs funds to train teachers so more kids can attend classes.~~

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~~Clay Aiken met with Jamad on his trip to Afghanistan with UNICEF. Jamad 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 to allow more children the opportunity to be educated.~~

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~~UNICEF Ambasaador Clay Aiken met with Fawzia in Afghanistan. Fawzia 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 to allow more children the opportunity to be educated.~~

Update on the $100,000 in 10 days for Afghanistan program, As of Friday afternoon, Clay fans have helped UNICEF raise $69,638. If you can help,please donate through this link.

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For more information visit

~Video of Clay in Good Morning America Segment~

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

UNICEF: Afghanistan

Besides being a pop star, Clay Aiken is dedicated to making the world a better place for children, be it children with disabilities or children living in amongst conflict, war, stife, political upheaval, or poverty. Every child deserves a chance in life, and Clay is doing his part to see that it happens.

Clay recently returned from a UNICEF trip to Afghanistan. He notes that the need in that country is great. There is a goal to raise $100,000 in ten days. Please check this UNICEF link and lend your support.

Press Release

Clay Aiken, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador:

It is a pleasure to be here, we have had an amazing time observing the programmes and the people of Afghanistan over the past week. I've traveled with Catherine, UNICEF's country representative here in Afghanistan, and my high school teacher, Mary Props, two people who individually who have in different ways had a major impact in the way that I look at world affairs and the needs of children all around the world but especially here in Afghanistan.

There's a very distinct impression that those of us in America have been given about Afghanistan, the people and the children and the situation here in Afghanistan. Because of major media in the US unfortunately only had the opportunity to see the more negative aspects, the more painful images of what's going on here in Afghanistan. For that reason I didn't really know exactly what to expect when I found out I was traveling here and was not really anticipating such an amazing and positive welcome from the people both in the city of Kabul and in Bamiyan where we have just returned from. The people of Afghanistan are without question it's greatest natural resource because we have been greeted by nothing but wonderful hospitality since we've been here and it's been really amazing to see not only the generosity but also the strength of the people. Some of the most impressive people without question, I would think are the national staff in the office at UNICEF. Not to negate or take away from the international staff, like Catherine [UNICEF representative] and those who have come from other countries. But there's an amazing number of [national] staff from right here in Afghanistan who are working with UNICEF to make sure the children of this country are given every opportunity to survive be that through education, through health and nutrition, through sanitation and water access. There's a lot of work going on here by UNICEF through not just the people who have come from outside Afghanistan but also lots of Afghans too.

Thanks to Catherine and her colleagues we had an opportunity to visit a high school here in Kabul [Macfee High School] where we met a number of young women who have an amazing positive outlook on their future now in post conflict Afghanistan and it really provides a backdrop of hope, there's an amazing sense of hope and promise not only in the country but in the young people here too.

In Bamiyan, which is some the most beautiful country that I have ever seen in my life. We had an opportunity to visit other schools and one very interesting school where boys and girls are learning together in the same classroom which is extremely promising and very exciting for me to see. We visited clinics I actually got an opportunity to give polio vaccine to a new born [baby] that was exciting for me and risky for the mother and the new born! But it's indicative of the type of work UNICEF is doing in every area of the country but in Bamiyan they are having a lot of success with polio vaccines, with healthcare in general, prenatal and postnatal healthcare in Bamiyan.

I could speak on and on about the different activities and programmes that we saw taking place, we did see a literacy centre for both young and old women who are learning to read now in post Taliban Bamiyan. Instead of pin pointing each and every experience that we had I think it's more important to give you a sense of the overall feeling that we got. I have never in my life, and I've traveled with UNICEF to a number of countries and of course have seen all parts of my own [country], I have never in my life seen such a thirst and an excitement for learning, seeing children, women, men, boys and girls to be so excited about learning, to be so excited about being in school it's actually something I know makes my former teacher [Mary Props] quite jealous! That kid's are so excited about being in school and really being on the forefront of making sure that they have the best education possible and that's exactly how and why I know that Afghanistan is such a powerful force to be reckoned with because the natural resource in its humans and the people who are thirsty for knowledge is just so evident.

That idea that education is so important is why I asked my high school teacher to join me. A lot of the children in the US don't really have access to or the desire to learn about issues that are facing our world outside of our own country which I find to be a horrible situation, that kids don't have that desire so I asked my teacher to come along and she'll be able to provide some different perspective on education here in Afghanistan from an educator in the United States perspective and Catherine will be able to provide more insight into exactly what UNICEF is doing.

I really appreciate you giving us the opportunity to be here and talk with you.

Thank you.

Question and Answer Session:

GMA: You have spoken about visiting Bamiyan and a high school in Kabul where there is peace. Have you visited or have any information from southern provinces where the people live in fear and horror?

Clay: Unfortunately I didn't have an opportunity during this trip to visit south. We visited the areas which are a little bit secure and where we can visit children. I will let Catherine speak about the south because she has been to Kandahar. Before she starts I would imagine just by seeing the amount of enthusiasm from kids here in this area that there is still that thirst [for education]. Because I think just in general children in this country have been oppressed for so long that they may have not had access to education, access to such an opportunity so I can imagine that there in the south where children continue to live in the darkness they still must have the thirst for education. And Catherine can speak about it more specifically.

Catherine: You remember a few weeks ago when children started going to school some six million children are now back to schools, including children from the south. Of course there are concerns. But ladies and gentlemen from the media we count on you to continue to help us mobilize and talk about education in this country and that children want to be educated and that children have nothing to do with conflict and that they are thirsty to go to school. Look at areas which are not secure, the communities come together with all partners to take care of their community schools. Even though there are security problems, they are taking steps, they make demands, they go to the government and local authorities to say they need schools and we are ready to pay for that. Of course we are concerned about that but we are working with communities to make sure that even in those places, there should be schools.

IRIN: I would like to know your personal commitment to children of Afghanistan. What would you do to change the situation of children here in Afghanistan when you return the US? In the meantime I would like to know Mary's opinion about the education system in Afghanistan?

Mary: First I am glad to be an invited guest as part of the UNICEF delegation. I was excited and interested to learn about Afghanistan's schools and have chance to talk with teachers and students. I think my first impression was on commonalities that educators across our two countries face and particularly despite some of the challenges that the teachers and students face with resources, facilities, meeting the needs of all students, the learning styles the list could go on. We do in fact have a lot to share. I would like to echo the fact that Catherine and Clay have already made is that the most impressive thing that I saw was the desire. While there are steep roads ahead there is a desire for these students. I saw them learning Dari, English, math and in the high school in Kabul they were studying other subjects particularly in social sciences which interested me, and economics and geography. So overall I have a positive impression of the educational system.

Clay: It is our goal in UNICEF to raise awareness and money. I think probably the most important thing I will be able to do is to talk about some of the positive things I have seen. Because very few people in the US have the opportunity to learn about the positive things that are taking place in Afghanistan. And that is the kind of thing that encourages people to get out of their seats. I think the most positive and exciting thing about this trip for me is that I have been with UNICEF to Indonesia and Uganda and what is the different about this country and what helps us in some ways is that Afghanistan is in the forefront of Americans minds right now unlike Indonesia or Uganda unfortunately. People in America do care about what is going on here in Afghanistan. They want to learn more about Afghanistan and know what exactly is happening here. And there is a distinct desire and drive amongst the American people to do what they can to help out here. So I am looking forward to be able to go back there and say not only do we need your help but here is why because here are the great things that are happening here and these are the positive outcomes of your support.

RFE: You said that media reports very grim picture about Afghanistan. How do you find Afghanistan?

Clay: I would like to restate my earlier comment. We do see a lot of negative in the US. Most of it is associated with conflicts, troops, military activities in Afghanistan and unfortunately we see reports of insurgent attacks or suicide bombings and there is not much stories at all about children in Afghanistan. And the reason there is so much negative is because there has not been much about children. There is a lot positive things going on with children and if we did see more about the kids we will see more positive support and help. Obviously there are needs as Catherine said there are needs for every conflict situation, there are needs for kids to have access to safety, to be safe in their schools and have access to clean water. There are the needs that would be there even if there was not a conflict in Afghanistan at all. My major impression was a population of kids who really want to learn and a group of communities and a group of international aid workers and NGOs who are working together as much as they can to make sure that this is possible.

Radio Farda: My question is for Ms Mary, the teacher. What will you specifically do for children in Afghanistan after you return to the US?

Mary: In the US I think we have a strong curriculum in all subjects. In history we tend to concentrate on history a lot and not on current world issues. My message in going back is that we need to do more in our curriculum to make sure that our students not only understand the past but they can also relate it to today and what today's problems, issues and concerns are.

BBC: There are reports that the Italian Emergency Hospital is going to leave Afghanistan. Do you have information on this? If they do leave what will be the impacts on Afghanistan?

SIO: I am only aware of this from media reports, about the Emergency Hospital that may or may not be leaving Afghanistan. Whenever an organization comes to Afghanistan to help the people of Afghanistan we have always welcomed and encouraged this. If we hear of an organization leaving Afghanistan not only does this sadden us all here in the United Nations but it is also a loss for the Afghan people. We want organisations that come to help to stay here and work hard on behalf of the Afghan people because as you all know there is much for all of us to be doing to deliver the progress that people want to see and so richly deserve.

Pajhwok: My first question is for the UNICEF representative. Is there any change in the 26% children who are earning bread for their families? And my second question is for Clay. You have seen some other post-conflict countries. How do you compare the condition of Afghan children with that of those countries?

Catherine: A very good question. Today in the afternoon we are going to visit an organization called Ashiana which is doing a very good job in Afghanistan particularly in Kabul. We are going there to learn from them. We have concerns about street children in Kabul and we really want to make sure that we benefit from all organisations who have experience in dealing with these vital issues. In other countries we have good lessons learnt and we want to share them with organizations here in Afghanistan so that we can pull our resources together to make a better impact for these children. So this afternoon we have an education trip to Ashiana and there are some other organizations that are doing a lot for street children and we are looking forward to work more closely with them.

Clay: With regard to the question about my other travels and comparison, I have been to Indonesia in Banda Aceh right after the tsunami in 2004 and I was in northern Uganda in 2005 to visit the children in the northern part of the country who have been victims of a 20 year long conflict. Probably the biggest or the most striking contrast, I guess in the US we call it hardiness, the hardiness of the Afghan people, it has been a long dark three decades here in Afghanistan and it has been extremely trying unlike other situations like Indonesia it was a natural disaster. The people here are very strong and they are very proud of their country, their homeland and themselves and it seems to be for that reason or because of those things they seem to be poised in a wonderful position to really pick the country up and move it forward in the way it needs to be moved forward. It is not that I have not seen this elsewhere but I believe that I have seen it more here in Afghanistan, just 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.

SIO: If I could just pick up on the question that was addressed to Catherine earlier about street children, I know that the World Food Programme runs an extensive school feeding programme. One of the main issues that we are faced with here is why are children not able to go to schools? And why are they on the streets? One of the key factors is poverty. So if we can encourage school children to go to school and at the same time provide food for their families and themselves then this can be a real motivating tool to encourage parents to send their children to school and keep them off the streets. Great efforts have been made on this vital area of work by the WFP and UNICEF and these efforts are continuing.

GMA: You said the UN Secretary General has issued a statement condemning violence. I just wanted to know whether he means by violence the beheading of Ajmal Naqshbandi or some other violence since there is a lot of violence in the country.

SIO: The Secretary General's concern is the safety of everybody living and working in Afghanistan. Over the last few weeks we have seen not only innocent civilians being targeted we have seen journalists being targeted and we have seen international and Afghan forces targeted. This is of course a mater of great concern for the Secretary General and that is why we saw the statement from the Secretary General. It is indication of the closeness with which the Secretary General is following events here and the commitment that the Secretary General and the United Nations has here in Afghanistan. If you pick up a copy of his statement from the side table you will see that it makes a specific reference to Ajmal Naqshbani's case, Canadian soldiers that perished in Helmand over the weekend and also the horrific attack we saw in Laghman province on April 1 in which nine civilians were killed including five children. Like all of us, the Secretary General wants to see peace and stability in Afghanistan and that is what we remain focused on achieving.

Clay: I just want to go back to your question about comparisons of the countries I have visited. Afghanistan's terrain is very tough and is also full of so much promise. It has been such a key part of travel, dating centuries back. It is such a valuable country in so many ways. As you fly in or as we flew into Bamiyan and when we were flying to Kabul it is dark, rough and dusty. And as we were approaching Bamiyan on the plane I was told of the promise of the grass and the promise of green. When the summer comes there would be grass over the hills and that it is so beautiful and lush in the summer yet I didn't see that and some were skeptical that any grass grew in Bamiyan. When we flew out today and I looked out of the window and I saw a little grass peeking through. And I think that has been a kind of capstone experience for me here in Afghanistan that there is so much promise and it has been a long winter for Afghanistan and it is spring time finally. I think that is what UNICEF is excited about doing and being a part of the rebirth and re-growth and part of the spring time here in the country and I am thrilled to be associated with them for that reason.

Catherine: Ladies and Gentlemen of the media. You have such a great role to play. Today we talked a lot about children and I would like you to remember too that anything we have to do in this country has been for children. We talked about poverty reduction, conflict resolution please remember that poverty reduction starts with children. Conflict resolution begins with children. More children are going to schools, more children are going for vaccinations, more women go to literacy courses and we have recognise that. We have to tell that story and tell the world that the children of this country are the beginning of this country. If we invest in them, lots of problems are going to be solved.

SIO: I would like to thank our UNICEF delegation and particularly Clay Aiken for joining us here today and sharing their experiences with us.

Thank you.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Memories of AI2: Top 9 -- No Question of "Everlasting Love"

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April 1, 2003 -- Disco night and the infamous Disco Pants of Perfection. Guest judge of Verdeen White of Earth, Wind, & Fire. Clay sang "Everlasting Love" hitting a note that lasted 14 seconds.

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Judges' comments:
Randy: Yeah, yeah, dawg, Clay, man, see? You know what I'm sayin? That's how you do it, dawg, that's how you do it right there. No matter what it is, you make it your own. That was brilliant dawg.
Paula: Arright, Clay.... you've proven it doesn't matter what genre of music you're singing, your voice is your voice, it's golden, it's golden. And I just was lookin for ya to dance a little...
Clay: hahahaha!
Paula: Butcha didn't. Great job!
Clay: - I need some help on that, yeah.
Verdeen White: Clay, I saw ya backstage this afternoon and you didn't look like you could sing like that. Man, you can sing, you got chops man!
Simon: Simon on his last episode of American Idol... um... First it was a disco genre and I have to say, Clay, if I'm being honest, within the context of this competition, I thought that was terrible.
Paula: booooooo
Randy: what? What you mean dawg?
Simon: Sorry... no no no no no... I'm sorry maybe I'm just missing... maybe I'm missing the plot here. I'm looking for a future superstar and based on that I just didn't get it, sorry, they disagree...
Randy: Don't you think it was the best so far tho?
Paula: Way to go, Clay, way to go!

Perfomances of the Night:
1. Ricky Smith-"Let's Groove Tonight"
2. Carmen Rasmusen- "Turn the Beat Around"
3. Kimberly Caldwell- "Knock on Wood"
4. Clay Aiken- "Everlasting Love"
5. Trenyce- "I'm Every Woman"
6. Ruben Studdard- "Can't Get Enough of Your Love"
7. Kimberley Locke- "It's Raining Men"
8. Joshua Gracin- "Celebration"

Note: Corey Clark did not perform this night due to his arrest coming to light (or because AI decided to pull the scandal of the season card to boost ratings).

~~Performance of "Everlasting Love"~~

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Monday, April 02, 2007

A Night Full Of Champions

"He's the pebble tossed into the silent stream, sending forth small, yet relentless ripples of change into the lives of everyone around him"~~ClayIzzaQT at CV

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Saturday night The Bubel-Aiken Foundation hosted a Gala in Raleigh to raise money for programs that allow children with disabilities to interact with their peers without disabilities. The night included a lovely dinner, an auction (that ended up raising almost $200,000), and a performance by Clay. Here are some thoughts and recaps from the attendees to give you are real feeling of the evening.

One of the most touching moments for me was Diane Bubel talking about her son Mike, on the video. He is autistic and is non verbal. She says she imagines conversations with Mike and believes he would tell her, "I just want to be a kid, Mom, I just want to play." Diane tears up at this statement and i think most of us did the same in the audience. The last few minutes of the video is of TBAF children playing with Clay singing Because You Loved me in the backgroud. It was the perfect song and it gave me a whole new appreciation for the it, it was a no longer a song about a man and a women, but it about anyone who is lifted up b/c of was beautiful and another tear jerker moment.

The first award recipient was Jonathan Bunzey. Jonathan is deaf and has some other cognitive issues, but that does stop him from working on the We Build People Campaign at the A.E. Finely YMCA, Raleigh. He raises maoney for kids with special needs to be have the same, fun camp experience at the Y that he has had. He raised more than 6400. this year. His acceptance speech which was interpreted by his mother was so sweet and moving.
The next recipient was coach Jim Johnson. Coach Johnson, as many of you know was the high school basketball coach that allowed his student team manager, young man by the name of Jason McElwain, who has autism, into the final home basketball game. J-Mac scored 20 points in just over four minutes, including 6 three point baskets. We watched a brief video clip and listened to a moving and impassioned speech by this very special and compassionate man. I had the opportunity to thank him at the end of the Gala.

The TBAF Beta Alph Volunteers were given an award and were represented by Pam Gaither, Dawn Graham, our own RaleighAikenfan, and Teresa Moss. Pam gave a beautiful speech sharing the award with all the Beta Alpha volunteers.

The last and final volunteer was the corporate sponsor State Farm, and I missed most of this speeech, due to leaving the room for a few minutes. State Farm did make an additional 8,000 donation last night and the gentleman accepting the award made an additional 1,000 donation.~~butterflyshine at CV

Now, onto Clay. The first thing I noticed--beside how gorgeous he was and how great he looked in that beard -- is that he was totally happy and completely relaxed. I saw no traces of tension, stress, anxiety, or discomfort at all. He was an Adonis, a clown, a joker, a sweetheart, and a mischief-maker. He was beautiful, adorable, witty, happy, and knee-slappingly, side-splittingly, pee-in-your-pants hilarious.~~Brightstar at CV
If Clay had not sang a note at the Gala the night
still would have been magical.~~CAP121 at CV
When I was in line for "coffee" (I don't drink the stuff) at the coffee bar right by Clay's table, a general announcement was made about the rest of the evenings events. And the Claytinis were mentioned. So, Linda Loveland turned to Clay and "What's a Claytini?"

Clay replied, "It's a martini with a little bit of me in it. It's a little bitter."~~scrpkym at the CH

THE AUCTION. There are no words to describe the absolute adorableness of that man. He flirted, cajoled, pouted, danced and shook his bootie, was totally incorrigible. I sat behind Faye, one seat over. She laughed and really seemed to enjoy his performances. I can’t imagine how he was as a child. I’m sure she has been exposed to his wiles before. Good thing she was a strong woman and could resist him. I sat by a very distinguished gentleman and his wife. Very formally dressed. We talked a bit about Raleigh and Dallas. He traveled on business to Dallas before he retired. He seemed surprised that I flew in just for the Gala. I then told him many of the attendees did. He later talked to Faye, so I’m pretty sure he was an acquaintance.

My friend pointed out to me that Faye’s profile and Clay’s were very similar. And in person, it is very noticeable. The nose and mouth and chin. She looked very pretty and stood outside the dining room and greeted the attendees as we came in. She also sold raffle tickets table to table. ~~auntdementia at CH

Clay is so funny without saying a word. He used his eyes, his nose, his lips and his entire body to convey a thought. For example using the wango-tango shirt as a prop to show love (hugging it), growth of his body,( couldn't button it) sex (rubbing it on his body and sniffing it) and finally waving it around his head like a stripper. Best example of salesmanship I have ever seen. ~~FearofH2O at CH
He mentioned “family” toward the beginning, referring to all of us there. I truly think he does think of his fans fondly now, as an extended family perhaps. Some are quiet and sweet, some get a little hyper at times, and some may be considered his “crazy Aunt Bernice” or something. But he is so free now with what he will say to us, and joke about with us, imply with us, and even scold us about. There is a lovely close feeling there, at the best times at least, and that bond, that flow of love and caring, is one of the very best things, to me, about this fandom.

And yes, sitting so close to him was powerful and awesome, but he was also very real---a happy, beautiful, charismatic man, but also just Clay, the Raleigh man who made good, with an incredible talent but a down-to-earth, down-home demeanor—the jokester, the teacher, the boy next door, the caring, earnest man with a heart as big as the room. How anyone can not love him is beyond me. He has me for life.~~Brightstar

The "Lover All Alone" Manuscript is absolutely beautiful! My husband and I will hang it in our home with pride on behalf of all of you: Clay's dedicated, giving and generous fans. Someday soon, we will donate this back to TBAF in order for them to raise even more money; something this precious and beautiful is meant to be shared with others who can appreciate it. ~~Cheryl, winner of the "Lover All Alone" manuscript
We sat next to a member of the Cardinal Club who was there with his wife. They were not particularly Clay fans but bought tickets to the Gala just to support the "hometown boy." He also said that there were not very many CC members in attendance. They were both simply blown away by Clay, the amount of $$$$ he was able to raise for the children - and the impact he had on everyone in the room! They left the Gala as new Clay fans and planned to attend their first Clay concert in Cary this Summer! They also planned on letting the other Cardinal Club members know what an extraordinary event they missed out on! Yaaaayyyyy!!! ~~ClaytonClayniac at the CB

It was then time for LIVE AUCTION/COMEDY HOUR...featuring none other than Clay Aiken (who said he wasn't planning on being involved, but his butt hurt from sitting too long - so he was). He was excited about the auctioneer (and mimicked auctioneer talk - real fast talking...imagine him doing that) and it was obvious he was going to be very involved in the process. With the first few items, there was a vacation to the mountains of NC, and Clay liked it so much - he kept bidding on it himself, but the guy wouldn't take his was funny! Then came other items such as signed Proud of Your Boy music score (which he doesn't remember....but he thinks he may have slept with), Invisible music/45, Grammy jacket came up and Clay really started getting into it with the crowd. He was interacting ALOT and pleading with the bidders for higher amounts "it's for the children" he would yell into the microphone....of which at one point - yes, ladies, he did have his finger in the mic stand....ONCE AGAIN. *thud*

The excitement came with a 2003 Wango Tango shirt (striped, bright colored) that he decided he was going to put on, take off, rub all over his body, and swing around his head like a stripper. NO LIE.

We think that went for $8k (OMG) and the winner got to collect on stage and got a big hug and kiss from Clay - sooooo worth the investment. The biggest item sold was the handwritten SCORE of Lover All Alone - music written from DFoster and lyrics handwritten by Clay........*sigh* and signed by them and Eman. This is the ORIGINAL and only 3 other "copies" are out there....and belong to DF, JF, and CA....whoa. Final winning bid.....$55,000.00!

He was cute, he was funny, he was flirty....he was sexy - he was playful....he was a TEASE. Especially when someone in the front row said "Clay, I'll buy your ring" And then led to the not only the bidding of his thumb ring (he left the other 2 at home - forgot to put them on after his shower) but of all his jewelery that he had on......ring (with the other 2 included later) and necklaces....that he whipped out from under his white shirt. He then proceeded to put the ring in his mouth *excuse while i take a moment* and roll it around with his tongue seductively - and also rumor had it he LICKED the necklaces as still my heart. Final bidding ended around $8,000....again, money well spent. ~~LynninNJ at CB

-- The singing -- all of it -- was stunning. I must admit I was a bit shocked that he could sing so well after all that exuberant talking. Why, he talked just as much as the auctioneer! I loved it when he said that his name was on the foundation and he could decide what to do! Reminded me of "mah name's on the ticket." ~~sweetcarolinagirl at CV

The whole night was just so special. BAF did a wonderful job and the opening video of the children was so touching. What wonderful strides BAF is making! The video closed with ""Because You Loved Me"" and it truly brought tears to my eyes....I was so full of pride and for Clay, Diane, Kristy and all the volunteers for all they have done!! Clay later joked what a great singer that was who sang that closing song!

So cute when he was auctioning off the thingy for the NBC skating show...he said he had to sing 8 songs and that was a lot of work...maybe they should be paying him more!! ~~toni7babe at CV

Somebody from the front row .. said.. "SELL YOUR RINGS!!! or something to that effect..
Suddenly, he pulled off the ring.. and the necklace.. and BOOM..
The bidding started.. .. Suddenly, I was transported to a different space and time..
Clay was truly mesmerizing.. He had all of us spellbound.. He was adorable when
He puckered up his mouth begging for a higher bid.. over the Wango Tango shirt..
I guess when he put that ring in his mouth.. all bets were off.. YIKES..

Well, I made an executive decision.. I really wanted to make a donation to the Foundation and since I had been out bid on every other item.. I felt like these rings were calling my name..
So…the bidding started.. and the next thing I knew.. I was the winning bid.. I was on the stage with Clay .. a big ole hug and a kiss on the cheek was more than worth it.. He is so sweet and kind. We are truly blessed to have such a wonderful role model in our lives. He has brought us all together because of his voice but we as a fandom are very special. We support the cause so near to Clay .. that of inclusion.. Let’s hold the feelings of the Gala and NAG in our hearts as we go into this year.. and never forget how proud we are of our boy. ~~clayladylei at CV

As for the Aiken- it warms my heart to see him genuinely happy. Makes me realize how much i think he was struggling before- and yet kept going. He is funny, articulate, a little naughty and had a smile that would light up the room. And when he sang- well the maturity and depth to his voice are beyond amazing. ~~jasr9203 at CV

Clay's fans know he is a special man--a man is bit different, a bit extraordinary.

The world is full of possibilities and potential. Picture clear, unlabeled bubbles of possibilities filling the sky. I think the average person recognizes, grabs and fulfills a number of possibilities, but I see Clay as one who does so much more. I almost believe he sees possibilities where the "average person" may not. I think he may see potential more clearly than most. I see him as one who strives to turn possibilities into accomplishments, potential into achievements. His desire to help--because there is the need for help--and to make a real difference in the world is admirable, yet it just seems to be an integral part of him. I am in awe, and will be so proud to see the many great things he will accomplish with his determination, his hard work, and a mind which at times may see a problem as just a solution waiting to happen, and a heart that is determined to make it happen.~~Brightstar at CV

I hope Clay continues to walk his path no matter what obstacles are thrown his way. I know I and many other will be there with him every step of the way.

~ Selling the Merchandise ~

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