An Advocate for Children
In addition to over fifty trips to Third World countries, Audrey worked tirelessly to raise support for UNICEF's programs and increase public awareness of the challenges facing the world's children.
Audrey had always kept her distance from the press, and, despite her acting career, speaking in public "scare[d] the wits out of [her]." However, her new job required numerous speeches, press conferences, and interviews to effectively raise public awareness. As she had done for each film, Audrey put her all into doing the best job she possibly could. "Audrey did so much hard work - before as well as after," says Christa Roth.
"She called for all the information we could supply her with about a particular crisis spot," says Roth. "She not only went on her mission well briefed, but she could speak of particular problems - not just UNICEF ones - with a detail that convinced her listeners she had used her time well, and wasn't simply bringing back a sincere but rather superficial view of a country. She wanted, above all else, to be credible."
Roth says, "Her professionalism was terrific. She knew how a sentiment had to be boiled down into a phrase, a 'soundbite'. She was able to deliver it with all the force of her art." She received more coverage than any other UNICEF ambassador before or since.
Every year between 1988 and 1992 Audrey hosted, with Roger Moore, the Danny Kaye International Children's Special in Holland, which was broadcast worldwide and drew enormous donations. In 1990, she performed in a series of benefit concerts for UNICEF, reading selections from The Diary of Anne Frank, integrated with an original orchestral work by Michael Tilson Thomas. Also in 1990, she co hosted Concert for Peace with Jimmy Carter, Francois Mitterand, and Nelson Mandela among the participants. She took part in the World Summit for Children, launched UNICEF's State of the World's Children reports and even drew a simple but beautiful sketch of an Ethiopian woman and baby that she donated to an auction to benefit UNICEF, which sold for $16,500 and was put on a UNICEF Christmas card.
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On April 6, 1989, Audrey made the first of two congressional appearances, testifying before the House Select Subcommittee on Hunger. She told the congressmen, "Less than one-half of one percent of today's world economy would be the total required to alleviate the worst aspects of poverty and would meet basic human needs over the next ten years." In her second appearance, in June 1991, she urged a boost in aid for Africa.
"The work Audrey Hepburn did for UNICEF was imperative for us" said Lawrence E. Bruce, Jr., former president and CEO of the US Committee for UNICEF. In 1991, President George Bush gave Audrey the highest honor any individual can receive in the United States - the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She said, "I have been given the privilege of speaking for children who cannot speak for themselves, and my task is an easy one, because children have no political enemies. To save a child is a blessing: to save a million is a God-given opportunity."