Stevie Wonder given UN role to help disabled
Published 03/12/2009 | 05:54
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon selected blind pop star Stevie Wonder to be a United Nations Messenger of Peace, with a special mission to help people with disabilities.
The UN said the singer-songwriter, who has won 25 Grammy awards, is being recognised for his philanthropic work with the US President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, the Children's Diabetes Foundation and Junior Blind of America.
Wonder will be the 11th UN Messenger of Peace, joining a list of notable figures - including Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, actor Michael Douglas, primate expert Jane Goodall and conductor Daniel Barenboim who use their prominent positions to promote the UN and help the less fortunate.
"Our newest Messenger of Peace is someone who is admired by millions of people and has given back to millions of people," Mr Ban said in a statement ahead of Wonder's official designation at a UN news conference today.
UN deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said Wonder will focus on helping to improve life for the estimated 650 million people with disabilities - about 10% of the world's population.
Wonder was born in Saginaw, Michigan, in 1950 and became blind shortly after birth. He learned to play the harmonica, piano and drums by age nine and had his first recording contract with Motown Records by age 12.
In February, President Barack Obama presented Wonder with the Library of Congress' Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, the nation's highest award for pop music.
He praised Wonder's blend of pop and funk, R&B and gospel, and thanked him for creating "a style that's uniquely American".