We’re building a new UNICEF.org.
As we swap out old for new, pages will be in transition. Thanks for your patience – please keep coming back to see the improvements.


Remembering Danny Kaye – UNICEF’s first ambassador to the world’s children

18 January 2013 would have been iconic entertainer Danny Kaye’s 100th birthday. The UNICEF family remembers its first Goodwill Ambassador fondly.

18 January 2013 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of beloved entertainer Danny Kaye. UNICEF celebrates its first Goodwill Ambassador and his tireless work for the world's children. Video produced by United States Fund for UNICEF.  Watch in RealPlayer


NEW YORK, United States of America, 17 January 2013 – For over 33 years, entertainer Danny Kaye circled the globe as UNICEF’s first Goodwill Ambassador. Known for his comedic performances in radio, movies, television and theatre, Mr. Kaye also brought his unique brand of zaniness and zeal to his work with UNICEF, harnessing his fame and influence to educate millions and garner support for the organization.

But what made generations of people adore him were the gleeful interactions he had with children everywhere. To their delight, Mr. Kaye rubbed noses, made funny noises, crawled on the floor and danced with them.

© UNICEF/NYHQ1954-0001/Unknown
As UNICEF's first Goodwill Ambassador, Mr. Kaye travelled the globe for more than 33 years to garner support for UNICEF.

Mr. Kaye’s unflagging support and work with UNICEF continued until his death in 1987.  He set the standard for the many committed Goodwill Ambassadors who have followed in his footsteps.

As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth, Mr. Kaye’s daughter, Dena Kaye, reflects upon her father’s legacy.


My father, Danny Kaye, whose 100th birthday we are celebrating today, was appointed the first UNICEF ambassador to the world’s children in 1954.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2003-0421/Markisz
Dena Kaye, daughter of Mr. Kaye, shown here at an event commemorating her father in 2003, remembers that he "often said working with UNICEF was his most rewarding role".

Though my father achieved legendary success in Hollywood, on Broadway, television and the concert stage, he often said working with UNICEF was his most rewarding role. His belief in helping children was rooted in his conviction that children were the world’s most valuable natural resource. “If children are healthy and have care and education,” he said, “surely they will be more effective adults, and maybe, just maybe, make the world a better place.”

His work with UNICEF covered the globe, from Africa to India. For him, there was no such thing as a language barrier. His language was love and laughter. He engaged with children instinctively. “Children are the same the world over,” he said. “They may have a different culture, but an ache or a laugh is universal.”

My father always went the extra mile. Perhaps you will be inspired by this short clip to go that extra mile, too.

© UNICEF/NYHQ1961-0004/Unknown
Mr. Kaye entertains children in Tokyo, Japan, in 1961. “Children are the same the world over,” he once said. “They may have a different culture, but an ache or a laugh is universal.”



UNICEF Photography: In Focus - Goodwill Ambassadors

New enhanced search