“I believe deeply that children are more powerful than oil, more beautiful than rivers, more precious than any other natural resource a country can have. I feel that the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life is to be associated with UNICEF ” – Danny Kaye.
Celebrities tend to get a bad rap. They make oodles of cash and then most of them use it to live extravagant, self-absorbed lifestyles. But some of Hollywood’s most recognizable names have chosen instead to use their fame for good. Audrey Hepburn, Selena Gomez, and Laurence Fishburne just to name a few, have been UNICEF celebrity ambassadors. These celebrities travel the globe and bring awareness to the incredible work that UNICEF does everyday. And it all started with actor and comedian, Danny Kaye.
Danny Kaye was born David Daniel Kaminsky on January 18, 1913 in Brooklyn, New York. He was the youngest of three sons born to Ukrainian Jewish Immigrants Jacob and Clara Kaminsky. From a young age Danny seemed destined to become an entertainer. At 13 he boldly dropped out of high school to pursue a career in show business. He soon returned to Brooklyn to work a string of odd jobs, none of which lasted very long, and eventually returned to his first love, acting.
During his career Danny wore many hats. He had starring roles in film, theater, and television. The beloved actor appeared in the family classic “White Christmas” alongside Bing Crosby and got the whole country laughing with his role in “The Court Jester”. His zany comedic style and heartwarming attitude won him fans the world over. Then, at the height of his career in 1954, he embarked on a whole new journey, becoming the first ever UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, a role he would hold until his death in 1987.
As an ambassador for UNICEF, Danny was the first celebrity to publicly advocate for a global cause. He was vocal about his belief that the world’s children held the key to the future and in an interview he said, “Any organization that perhaps creates a better understanding for the children would in some measure contribute to the security and the health and the peace of the world”.
Danny worked tirelessly to use his fame to bring the plight of the children he cared for so dearly to the attention of the world. He gave countless interviews, starred in a few UNICEF public service announcements, and provided much needed laughter and entertainment for kids around the world. In 1979, he even earned himself a spot in The Guinness Book of Records by flying a jet to 65 cities in 5 days to greet thousands of UNICEF volunteers for the annual Halloween Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF campaign. Kaye continued his mission to educate the world about the lifesaving work of UNICEF until his death in 1987.
Danny Kaye is gone but not forgotten. The legacy he created by using his stardom for good paved the way for countless celebrities to follow in his footsteps. Since 1954, UNICEF has had over 40 international Goodwill Ambassadors.
– Erin N. Ponsonby