Gary Susman
July 31, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) just turned 67, so she may not be an ”American Idol” fan. But one of her North Carolina constituents, Clay Aiken, paid her a visit on Capitol Hill this week and serenaded her with a rendition of ”Happy Birthday.” Aiken, who knows a few things about how to drum up voter interest, spent Tuesday in Washington, where he toured the White House, spoke with top officials at the Department of Education, and lobbied senators on an issue close to his heart, education for special-needs kids.

Aiken, who was a special education major at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte before finding stardom on ”Idol,” teamed with the American Film Institute (which employs his cousin, Mitch Aiken) to lobby Education Department officials and U.S. senators for the Screen Education Center, a media-literacy program that the AFI wants to introduce to public schools nationwide. ”Since I’ve had to put my own work with special-needs kids on hold for now, I am excited to do what I can to support worthwhile educational efforts, particularly those which reach kids who otherwise might fall through the cracks,” the singer told the Washington Post.

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