Thursday, April 1, 2010

David Cook in Ethiopia: "I feel kind of guilty for the bubble I've built for myself"

Wednesday, Season 7 American Idol David Cook talked to the media via phone from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to talk about his trip there with the United Nations Foundation for a segment on “Idol Gives Back.”

Also on the call was Elizabeth Gore, the Executive Director of Global Partnerships and Nothing But Nets for the United Nations Foundation.

The purpose of David’s trip is to create awareness about the problems facing girls in Ethiopia. According to Gore: “Adolescent girls are a huge priority to this organization and to the U.N., and the fact that 70 percent of the world’s out-of-school youth, and that’s about 130 million people, are girls shocks all of us every day.”

Here’s some of what David had to say…

On his experience: “This has been one of the most enlightening and fulfilling experiences I have been able to be a part of. My experience here – I have been very present at the Biruh Tesfa School here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and I will speak candidly about what I have seen here, but obviously, I think everybody listening and everybody talking can agree that the situation here is not as great as it could be, but having said that, there is definitely a sense of hope and an amazing vibrancy here, especially with the young girls at this school. That is what is great about this initiative that the U.N. and the U.N. Foundation have put together, it really gives these girls a chance to – statistically I think only 20 percent of the girls in this country have any sense of education – and so seeing that and really realizing how that it is not just in Ethiopia, but how much of a widespread problem that is.

I think, just having been out here for the short time, you immediately kind of appreciate the bubble that you have built for yourself, but also I feel kind of guilty for the bubble I’ve built for myself. This reality is so far removed from even what we see on TV. What the people here have to deal with on a daily basis is real, and it’s heavy, and it’s something that truly deserves our attention.”

On the girls he has met: “The girls at the school genuinely want to learn. They want to have that education. They want to have that opportunity, and that’s inspiring to see a seven-year-old girl want to build a better future for herself. I remember being seven years old, and I didn’t have that foresight. These girls are wise beyond their years, and both fortunately and unfortunately they’ve kind of had to be.”

On whether his experience will find its way into his music: “It would be really hard to fathom that it wouldn’t. I think anybody that isn’t completely self-absorbed, it’s impossible for them to come to this kind of a situation and not be moved by it and not be changed by it. To really drive home the fact that what these girls are dealing with – girls that don’t get an education here are immensely more likely to fall into the sex trade or into domestic servitude and then that opens it up to so many other different things. HIV is one of the main killers here. And so, to see that firsthand, I would almost say it’s a definite that I am going to bring that back, and it will find its way into my career path.”

On whether people there knew who he was: “Very few people here know who I am. We had to explain to the little girls who I was and why I was there. But we did get a chance to play some music for them. My guitar player came out here with me, and then they sang for us. It’s always cool to see music be this universal language, I guess. But I definitely had to win them over. They didn’t quite know what to do with the tall, tattooed white guy, I guess.”

On what he remembers from his own “Idol Gives Back” show: “I actually remember specifically, on my season when we did “Idol Gives Back,” that we all snuck up to the balcony and got a chance to watch, from the front of the house, Annie Lennox’s performance. It was just her on the piano, and in the background, they were showing images of children, and it just tore me apart. I think to have that kind of visual moment when everything kind of clicks and you realize that my reality is not their reality, it really puts you in a position where you want to help, and so from that point on I was just kind of chomping at the bit to get involved with “Idol Gives Back.” This couldn’t have come at a better time.

David said he did not know yet if he would be performing on “Idol Gives Back,” but he does hope to be at the show. FOX announced today that Annie Lennox will be back to perform.

“Idol Gives Back” airs on April 21st on FOX…

Photo Credit: Stuart Ramson/United Nations Foundation