The Washington Post called Clay Aiken a man with "an epic voice."
Clay Aiken has 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.
And yet, his greatest impact has often been off the stage.
In 2003, 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,, but ultimately shone a national spotlight on effects of money in the American political system, and the indifference that many elected officials have towards the needs of the outsiders and underdogs forgotten by a less-than-fair political system.
Clay's voice may be most well-known to Americans for his singing, but he's used it to effect positive change, as well.
Inclusion means all participate and all belong.
The National Inclusion Project works every day to make the inclusion of children with disabilities a reality. Since its inception in 2003, the National Inclusion Project has made a real impact by ensuring that children nationwide can experience all that life has to offer.
The mission of the National Inclusion Project is to bridge the gap that exists between young people with disabilities and the world around them. NIP partners with communities and inclusive programs, providing training and resources to promote and facilitate inclusive recreational environments. Through these efforts and initiatives, NIP is creating awareness about the possibilities that inclusion can bring.