Student’s letter to Colbert prompts donations to charity

Edson Decker, 8, a second-grader at Zukeran Elementary School in Okinawa, Japan, strikes his best Stephen Colbert pose Thursday. Colbert read a letter from Edson on his show, “The Colbert Report,” this week on Comedy Central. Edson chose Colbert as his mentor for a class assignment. Students in teacher Ann Guiffre’s gifted education class each wrote to a mentor who matches their strengths and potential career goals.


By NATASHA LEE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 2, 2009

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — If Edson Decker were to have his own television show he would name it after his favorite food, crack a lot of jokes and probably feature a segment on kittens.

So far, "The Rice Cake Report" or "The Navel Orange Report" sound pretty good.

On his show, Edson, 8, would give a shout-out to the guy who sparked his media dream, TV host and satirist Stephen Colbert.

After all, Colbert did the same for him.

Colbert read a letter from the Zukeran Elementary School second-grader during a kids shout-out segment of "The Colbert Report."

"I was both excited and surprised, but mostly surprised, and well, excited," Edson said Thursday.

Colbert also used Edson’s letter to prompt viewers to donate money to support military children through DonorsChoose.org, an online charity that helps schools in need.

Edson wrote about how he missed his Marine father a lot when he deployed to Iraq.

Donations benefit public schools attended by large numbers of military kids. As of Thursday, the site reported more than $31,000 in donations.

Edson penned the letter for a class assignment that called on students to send a note to a mentor who matched their strengths, talents and potential career paths.

While grown-ups might think Colbert is mature viewing, Edson says he watches for the laughs and Colbert’s way with words.

Traits Colbert and Edson have in common.

"We are both good with talking and we know a lot of words. He is very good with language," said Edson. "I’d probably say he’s more funny than Jon Stewart; of course I’d never say that to him."

The show is also informative.

"America is sort of in a war in Iraq," he said. "That’s how I get nearly a quarter, to even half of my information."

Edson said he had an inkling Colbert would pick his letter because of the questions he asked.

He wanted to know if Colbert was a really good student and did he make his classmates laugh. And, if Colbert likes pie.

"My mom likes pie and it’s also a very unexpected question," said Edson, who is in a gifted student program.

Critical and creative thinking were part of the assignment, said Edson’s teacher, Ann Guiffre.

Her students study the theory of intelligence as defined in a series of forms, from physical to verbal to logical, as a way to focus on their own strengths and goals.

Mentors must be researched, and approved by parents and teachers, Guiffre said.

"It gives them some visioning for their futures, so you can see your goals and you can see yourself successful in the future," she said.

Students ask thought-provoking questions, and detail their interests and similarities to encourage responses, Guiffre said.

For the most part, mentors write back. Letters from singer Norah Jones, architect Frank Gehry, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and "Harry Potter" himself — actor Daniel Radcliffe — hang on the walls of her classroom.

Edson said if he does get his own television show, he probably won’t be on air until he’s at least 30, and he’s not sure if his show will air on Comedy Central — the same channel that shows Colbert’s show. But Colbert, and probably Jon Stewart would be among his first guests, he said.

"In the future ... there may not be a Comedy Central, so I can’t say," Edson said.