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Danny Kaye became UNICEF’s first celebrity Ambassador-at-Large on this date in 1954, and proceeded to become an international voice for poverty relief and worldwide aid. Kaye met UNICEF’s executive director, Maurice Pate, in 1949 on a plane from London to New York that was re-routed to Ireland after it caught fire. They bonded during the fearful experience, and Pate recruited Kaye to the ambassadorship. Paramount Pictures then provided a camera crew to accompany Kaye overseas. The result was Assignment Children (1954), a short film distributed free of charge to movie theaters and classrooms around world. Next came The Secret Life of Danny Kaye (1956), which combined footage of his 50,000-mile tour of ten countries with music and humor — and brought an awareness of international suffering from preventable but untreated disease to the baby-boom generation, who would soon be “trick-or-treating” for UNICEF. Kaye was awarded the French Legion of Honor in 1986 for his years of work with UNICEF. To see a few minutes of his ambassadorship, look below.
“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.” —Danny Kaye