Clay Aiken

Clay Aiken has, himself, admitted that his tombstone may one day read “That Guy From American Idol”. But history (and the stone cutters) would be sorely remiss to diminish his accomplishments to only his participation on that show. In fact, a strong case could be made that his successes on American Idol in 2003 only served to set him up for larger achievements in areas far from the Idol stage. Sure, his first single made him the first artist in history to debut at #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Yes, he’s sold six million albums and sold-out 11 nationwide concert tours. His 2004 memoir, Learning To Sing: Hearing The Music in Your Life was a New York Times Best Seller, and his run on Broadway in Monty Python’s Spamalot was a critical and box office success.

He started a charitable foundation, National Inclusion Project, which is now recognized nationwide as the leading voice in the social inclusion of children with disabilities. He served for nine years as UNICEF Ambassador for education and child protection, traveling the world to educate Americans on the plight of children in Indonesia, Uganda, Afghanistan, and Somalia. His work with UNICEF raised awareness of and funding for the organization’s work around the world. He has advocated for LGBT rights and worked closely with organizations, like GLSEN, who work to curb the negative effects of discrimination against LGBT youth. And, his 2014 campaign for Congress from his home in North Carolina, while electorally unsuccessful, served to bring attention to not only policy issues important to him, like education and veteran’s affairs, but ultimately shone a national spotlight on deleterious effects of money in the American political system, and the indifference that many elected officials have towards the needs of the outsiders and underdogs that are forgotten by a less-than-fair political system.

While his voice may be most well-known to Americans for his singing, Clay has made an effort to use it to impact positive change, as well. It’s no wonder that the Washington Post called Clay a man with “an epic voice.”