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Danny Kaye

Danny Kaye Centenial 210

"Politics don't count where children are concerned: that's what makes (UNICEF) so special…. How can you love an Israeli child and not an Arab child, a North Korean child and not a South Korean child, an Indian child and not a Pakistani child? It's impossible."

At the height of his prolific career, legendary entertainer Danny Kaye made a commitment to helping the world's children by becoming UNICEF's first celebrity goodwill ambassador. For more than three decades, he used his influence and fame to educate millions about UNICEF's lifesaving work. In the process, Mr. Kaye helped UNICEF become a household name, recruiting generations of supporters through media interviews, public service announcements, personal appearances and travel.

As we embark on a celebration of his centennial birthday, it's important to remember the context in which Mr. Kaye's work for UNICEF began. The agency was still new, with a huge scope of work and no guaranteed means of funding. Technology was rudimentary: cell phones, the internet and social media did not exist. Radio, television, and print news were the only accessible means of information for the average person. 

Suddenly, onto the stage burst Mr. Kaye, pioneering the concept of global citizenry by introducing the plight of the world's children to a mass audience. Mr. Kaye traveled to distant lands, delighting children while campaigning for their health and wellbeing. He would film these trips, and share the footage in movie theaters, while personally recounting details of his experiences before television cameras. Mr. Kaye humanized the work of UNICEF and nurtured a sense of consciousness and responsibility for the wellbeing of the world's children. Mr. Kaye was so inextricably linked with UNICEF that when the agency won the 1965 Nobel Peace Prize, Mr. Kaye was part of the delegation that accepted the award.

Click above to see photos of Danny Kaye in action with UNICEF.

Upon his death in March of 1987, he was eulogized by Presidents, children, celebrities and average people. Said then UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar, "He was truly a champion for children in every continent… a friend of the United Nations whose great humanity and magnetic personality brought joy and laughter to millions around the world."

In observance of his centennial, we have gathered historic footage, unique reflections and fun facts about Mr. Kaye's life and pioneering work for children. His work with UNICEF helped pave the way for other celebrities to publicly align with causes, and spawned countless celebrity advocacy programs. 

Click here for Danny Kaye's full biography.


The Danny Kaye Society is a group of dedicated individuals who have chosen to make a lasting commitment to the world's most vulnerable children through their estate plans.

Click here to learn more.



Named Goodwill Ambassador


Received an honorary Oscar for Assignment Children, a documentary film about his work with UNICEF


Received the Humanitarian Award from the International Association of Lions Club for his work with UNICEF


Pilots UNICEF One airplane to 65 cities in five days in honor of Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF

Received the UN Peace Medal for his work with UNICEF


Received the Distinguished Service award from UNICEF


The UNICEF Board names him an Honorary Delegate


Awarded the B'nai B'rith for his outstanding work with UNICEF


Conducted a series of orchestra concerts to fundraise for UNICEF