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Dr. Jane Aronson Headshot

Seal: An Inspiration for Orphans Around the World

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Two years ago, Seal co-hosted the WWO Gala at Wall Street Cipriani and wowed us all with a special performance. I have never forgotten how inspired we felt as he sang alone on stage to help us raise money to support education, enrichment and health care for the orphans served by WWO.

This year the WWO Gala will honor the strength of the orphan, and so we are creating a film that includes interviews with high profile adults who were orphaned as children. Their resiliency and belief in themselves has given them the strength to grow and thrive in life. One of those survivors is Seal, and I have kept in touch with him over the last few years.

On Wednesday, July 11, I drove up to Foxwoods theater in Mashantucket, CT to interview Seal for the WWO film. We sat with our film crew and some of his team in a quiet room where he would be getting ready for his show that night. I didn't need to ask much. We had spent a few hours together in early May at his home in Pacific Palisades preparing for the interview. I met his children and we shared some of our personal stories; we exchanged our philosophies of life and I learned a lot about his past. He was in foster care and was abused by his parents. He ran away as an adolescent and discovered singing early in life as a way to express his pain and longing for his dreams.

At Foxwoods, Seal was clear about his message to the world. He has always believed in his ability to survive and be strong. As I sat across from him, I was mesmerized by his face -- his sculpted features even with the scars of lupus are captivating and when he smiles his very white teeth complete his vibrancy and intensity. He sat comfortably in his chair dressed casually in a very soft light pink cotton shirt opened at the chest with gray pants that look almost like those worn by a Bedouin. His chocolate painted nails on his hands and toes were playful. He kicked off his sandals and spoke about his childhood quite bluntly and directly. He made no accusations and in fact, he described his angry and abusive father as a "formidable" inspiration for his own strength and self-belief.

He also shared a story about an orphanage that he once visited for children living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa. During his visit, he was surrounded by hundreds of orphans all eager to touch him and talk with him. He stood among the orphans and it was hard for him to leave them. How do we ever leave children who are yearning and lonely? One young man was the loudest and called out to Seal. "Please tell them about me. Tell them my name and who I am and tell them not to forget me." It was this story about the desperation in anonymity that I leave you with today. As Seal recounted the tale, the cadence of his speech slowed down and he emphasized the boy's sentiments. With his poetic British accent, Seal spoke in the boy's exact words as if he were acting in a play and reciting a soliloquy; the story trailed off and he was suddenly quiet. All of us sat riveted and silent in that room.

The anonymity of orphans is unbearable for me and I hope it will be for you.