This article first ran on www.SixSeeds.tv
David Cook, the winner of American Idol Season 7, is a busy man. Since winning the top spot over teen heartthrob David Archuleta in “The Battle of the Davids,” Cook’s songs have shattered the music charts. He’s completed a nationwide tour, dated and split with fellow Idol singer Kimberly Cadwell, and performed everywhere from Saturday Night Live to NFL games. He’s currently working on his second album. However, when American Idol offered Cook the chance to be a part of their charity-focused event, “Idol Gives Back,” he jumped at the chance.
“I actually remember,” Cook told reporters, “On my season when we did Idol Gives Back, that we all snuck up to the balcony to watch Annie Lennox’s performance. It was just her on the piano, and in the background, they were showing images of children, and it just tore me apart. That kind of visual moment when everything kind of clicks and you realize that my reality is not their reality, it really puts you in a position where you want to help, and so from that point on I was just kind of chomping at the bit to get involved with Idol Gives Back.”
“Idol Gives Back,” airing Wednesday April 21, is a star-studded musical program that raises awareness and money for international and domestic efforts to combat poverty. This year’s beneficiaries include Children’s Health Fund, Feeding America, Malaria No More, Save the Children’s U.S. Programs and the United Nations Foundation. Piggy-backing off the wildly popular American Idol program, the special has raised over $140 million for charity.
Cook traveled to the Biruh Tesfa School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to see firsthand the effects of the donations. The school, whose name means “Bright Future,” provides educations for girls who normally would have no opportunity to be educated, girls otherwise at risk to be trafficked or exploited.
Cook met a seven-year-old girl named Magnus. “Both of Magnus’s parents have passed away, and she has been at the school for seven months. She is one of the most vibrant, joyous girls that I think I’ve ever met. The girls at the school genuinely want to learn. They want to have that education…I don’t think anybody can deny that education plays such an important role just across the board. And the fact that that’s not a right for these girls, but in a lot of cases it’s a privilege, that’s pretty abhorrent.”
Cook found that, despite culture, language, and circumstances, he connected with these girls more than he expected. “I got a chance while I was out here to actually play games with some of these girls. You watch a girl being a girl. You watch a child being a child, and that’s universal. A child being a child in Ethiopia is the exact same thing as a child being a child in America…There are common themes. There are common threads, and it has been a huge learning experience for me. You see these girls smile and laugh, and you realize very quickly that it’s not that hard to help them, it’s not that hard to empathize, and it’s not that hard to want to help. I think that maybe just looking at this problem just a little bit differently would be a huge inroad.”
Playing games isn’t the only universal theme Cook discovered. Although he’s a superstar in the West, the girls at Biruh Tesfa had no inkling who he was. Looking for a way to connect, he picked up his guitar. “We did get a chance to play some music for them. My guitar player came out here with me, and then they sang for us. It’s always cool to see music be this universal language. I definitely had to win them over. They didn’t quite know what to do with the tall, tattooed white guy, I guess.”
David Cook and the folks at American Idol hope that they can not only expose their vast audience to the plight of the world’s impoverished, but also provide a human connection and a method of addressing poverty that is not emotionally overwhelming. “I think, just having been out here for the short time, you immediately kind of appreciate the bubble that you have built for yourself, but also I feel kind of guilty for the bubble I’ve built for myself,” Cook said, “This reality is so far removed from even what we see on TV. What the people here have to deal with on a daily basis is real, and it’s heavy, and it’s something that truly deserves our attention.”
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