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Secretary-general designates Stevie Wonder: United Nations messenger of peace.

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appoints Stevie Wonder as a messenger of Peace at UN headquarters in New York on December 4, 2009.

New York (Press Release, Note No. 6234, Department of Public Information * News and Media Division * New York).

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has designated Grammy Award-winning songwriter and musician Stevie Wonder (United States) as a United Nations Messenger of Peace with a special focus on people with disabilities. His designation will be officially announced at a press conference at United Nations Headquarters on Thursday, 3 December 2009.

Recognized for his ability to focus attention on and mobilize support for civil and human rights issues, Stevie Wonder joins ten other United Nations Messengers of Peace who advocate on behalf of the Organization.

Messengers of Peace are individuals who possess widely recognized talents in the fields of art, academia, literature, sports and entertainment, helping to raise worldwide awareness of the Organization s ideals and activities. Through their public appearances, contacts with the international media and humanitarian work, they expand public understanding of how the United Nations helps to improve the lives of people everywhere.

In selecting Stevie Wonder for this designation, the Secretary-General said, "Our newest Messenger of Peace is someone who is admired by millions of people and has given back to millions of people. I recognize that he has consistently used his voice and special relationship with the public to create a better and more inclusive world, to defend civil and human rights and to improve the lives of those less fortunate. Stevie Wonder is a true inspiration to young people all over the world about what can be achieved despite any physical limitations."

Stevie Wonder s activism has been pivotal in United States and world events. In 1983, he spearheaded a campaign to make Martin Luther King Day a national holiday in the United States. He also advocated for ending apartheid in South Africa.

Stevie Wonder has been recognized for his philanthropic efforts which include the United States President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, the Children s Diabetes Foundation, Junior Blind of America and the creation of the Wonder Vision Awards Program. For over 10 years, he has provided toys for children and families in need with his annual House Full of Toys benefit concert.

His career as a recording artist has reflected his concern with humanitarian issues. He has written, produced and/or performed songs relative to charities in support of disabilities, aids, cancer, diabetes, hunger and homelessness, domestic abuse and many other causes on behalf of children and adults. Some of these charities include institutes for the blind, such as the Royal National Institute of Blind People, for which Stevie Wonder launched the British Telecom Celebrity Eyes phone card. He has also supported We Are the World, That's What Friends Are For, City of Hope, Special Olympics, Nobody's Child: Romanian Angel Appeal, Charge Against Hunger Campaign and Tour, Live 8, September 11, 2001 America: A Tribute to Heroes, Andre Agassi's Grand Slam for Kids, Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall, The United Negro College Fund, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, and many more.

On behalf of people who are blind or have low vision, Stevie Wonder released the first-ever descriptive music video entitled, "So What the Fuss". His second descriptive music video, "Shelter in the Rain", was a healing message of love and inspiration to those who were touched by Hurricane Katrina. Net proceeds from this song were donated to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

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Newly-inducted United Nations Messenger of Peace, Stevie Wonder, addresses the opening event for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, organized by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. 03 December 2009. United Nations, New York. Photo #421961.

On December 4, 2009 he was interviewed by Gerry Adams of UN Radio. The interview proceeded as follows:

SG 1: Ladies and gentlemen, it's no wonder why we are so excited today to have Mr. Wonder as UN Messenger of Peace today. Thank you very much.

Narrator: Currently as one of only 11 UN Messengers of Peace--they include actor George Clooney and environmentalist Jane Goodall--Stevie Wonder will advocate for the world's estimated 650 million people with disabilities.

SW 1: I'm extremely honored to be here. This is an amazing day because I never imagined that I would in my lifetime be given this honor. But when receiving such an incredible honor, it inspires me to move and do more, commit myself to an even greater degree than just the few years, but for a lifetime.

Narrator: But when an unexpected fire alarm marred his acceptance speech, Stevie Wonder, the consummate composer, had music on his mind:

N-Steve fire: (alarm)...I'm trying to figure out a new melody (laughter)

Narrator: Mr. Wonder was interviewed several times during the day. When he spoke to UN Radio, I asked him what he planned to do first in his new position:

Wonder 1: The first thing that I'd like to move on is to continue as I have, talking about how it is ridiculous that we have 10 percent of the people of the world with disabilities, and 90 percent of these people of the world are not doing enough to eradicating a condition where some people with disabilities are treated with prejudice because of the disability; where places in the world are not accessible to them-the people with disabilities.

Narrator: He also mentioned that he would like to focus on technologies that make the playing field more equal for disabled people:

Wonder 2: There's technology that is out there to help. A lot of this technology is not necessarily affordable to a normal person, so I'd love to see this technology be subsidized by governments, by companies in ways that would bring this cost of this technology down, or just be available to people for free, so that they can to do what they need to do.

Narrator: When he was serenaded by a group of young children, he spontaneously joined in: Stevie and kids: Children and Stevie Wonder Singing.

Narrator: Finally, Stevie Wonder had this to say about his new role of Messenger of Peace:

Wonder 3: I want you to know that I am committed to doing this, not just because I've been given this honor. And even after the time that I will have served with this honor is over, I'm still committed.

Narrator: Reporting for UN Radio, this is Gerry Adams.

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Stevie Wonder gives Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon a special handshake following his United Nations Messenger of Peace induction ceremony. 03 December 2009. United Nations, New York (photo #421860).
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Publication:Journal of Pan African Studies
Date:Mar 15, 2010
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