On April 21st American Idol will air it’s Idol Gives Back benefit show. This year, there will be a segment featuring season seven winner, David Cook. Cook recently traveled to Ethiopia as part of the United Nations Foundation. The focus of Cook’s trip was on education for girls. According to the U.N. Foundation there are 130 million “out-of-school” youth around the world. And out of those 130 million, 70% are girls.
In a teleconference from Ethiopia, Cook took some time to talk about his trip. Joining in on the conference was United Nations Director of Global Partnerships, Elizabeth Gore. Gore explained that focusing on girls is a big priority for the U.N, and that the foundation was excited to be working with Idol Gives Back on the project. Cook said that he was also excited to be working with the foundation and that it was something he had wanted to do since his time on the show.
Cook said he was particularly moved by Annie Lennox’s performance of “Many Rivers to Cross,” which featured heartbreaking images of Ethiopia in the background. Cook later explained that he felt this experience in Ethiopia was a life-changing experience that he will carry with him forever. When asked what his first impressions of Ethiopia were, Cook said that he was “completely shocked by this country in an extremely positive way.” He went on the say the city of Addis Ababa (where he was staying) was very lush and green, and the people were very friendly.
In response to question about what makes him the most thankful for his life in America, Cook responded that he felt “guilty for the bubble I’ve built around myself.” He said the reality there is beyond even what is shown on TV. Reality there is “real, and it’s heavy, and it’s something that truly deserves our attention.” He said he hopes everyone takes the mantra “we are only as good as the people that we surround ourselves with” to a global level. He continued the sentiment with, “Everyone is struggling right now, but we, as a country, are only as good as the countries that we surround ourselves with.”
Cook told the conference that “children are children” and that he enjoyed seeing them play and being able to join in on some games and songs. His statement that children in Africa are the same as children in America led to someone bringing up the sensitive issue of genital mutilation. It is something that is not an issue for children in America. Cook acknowledged that he is aware that it is a huge problem, and that he wasn’t suggested the struggles are the same. He emphasized that he was saying the children are still children no matter where they are. He said he has cannot “wrap his head around fully” as to why women are devalued in some cultures. He hopes further education and help will decrease that reality. Gore backed up Cook’s comments by saying that children everywhere just want to be able to play and have a safe place to live.
Throughout the conference, Gore stressed the value of small steps. She said any donations, even $5.00, help. She also said people can volunteer time, write to congressman, and raise community awareness. She said these types of efforts are especially good for kids and teenagers who would like to get involved. She thinks it is great that the efforts adolescent American girls can changes the lives of adolescent girls in Africa.