MEMPHIS, Tenn. (October 18, 2006) — Stevie Wonder received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Civil Rights Museum, then segued from his acceptance speech into a medley of his songs that included “My Cherie Amour” and “I Wish.”
Wonder, 56, received the honor Tuesday night. The museum also awarded civil rights pioneer Dr. Joseph Lowery the National Freedom Award and Doctors Without Borders co-founder Bernard Kouchner the International Freedom Award.
Playing an electronic keyboard, Wonder told an audience of about 5,000 that music is a gift he can share, challenging Memphis and the world to “use the gifts God has given us to help those less fortunate.”
“You must use your eyes, voices, ears. Tomorrow is never promised to any of us. You must be the best you can be right now,” he said.
After the singer’s speech, two blind students at Georgia Avenue Elementary Caia Smith, 6, and Oveante Magsby, 9 sang their own medley as a tribute to Wonder.
He smiled and clapped as the children sang “Ribbon In the Sky” and “You Are The Sunshine of My Life,” then made his way to the stage to meet the children, hugging them and whispering in their ears.
“I thought that was wonderful,” said Caia’s mother, Curtrice Smith. “He told them he loved them.”
Previous recipients of the annual awards include King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Oprah Winfrey and Paul Rusesabagina, whose heroism in the face of genocide inspired the movie “Hotel Rwanda.”