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Jay and Mavis Leno stay active in war effort

By Sherri Sylvester
CNN Showbiz Today Reports

Jay and Mavis Leno  

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Jay Leno and his wife Mavis Leno have each found a role during this time of crisis. He is using his comedy to entertain the troops -- she's sending a serious message about the women of Afghanistan.

"The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" will be broadcast to U.S. servicemen and women this Thanksgiving. Special guests include U2 and Pamela Anderson, who will also entertain members of the military in the studio audience at NBC.

During the Christmas holiday season, Jay will travel to the front lines. His destination is yet to be determined, but he enjoys playing to a military crowd.

"They are really nice kids -- they are kids," said Leno. "We were on an aircraft carrier two weeks ago, which had 5,500 people on it. The average age (was) 19 -- 19," he says with emphasis. "And they are running aircraft carriers, so it is inspiring."

"Every generation is great in their own time -- they just need a chance to prove it," says Leno  

The comedian added, "It makes you realize that every generation is great in their own time -- they just need a chance to prove it."

He says he will encourage the soldiers to get in front of his cameras, so the folks at home can see them. He will return the favor by posing for snapshots.

"The coolest thing about it is, years later I have people coming up to me with pictures they took 10 years ago during Desert Storm when they were 19, and now they are 29 and they have families and kids and they are so grateful. ... What you give out, you get back."

'I like being Mr. Mavis'

Mavis Leno also has spent years getting the word out. She has been chair of the "Feminist Majority's Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan" since shortly after the Taliban took control.

Mavis Leno chairs the "Feminist Majority's Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan"  

"Prior to the country falling to the Taliban," she said, "women were 70 percent of the teachers, 50 percent of the medical workers -- including surgeons. They held elected positions, they voted."

Five years ago, the organization helped to keep the U.S. government from recognizing the Taliban as the legal government of Afghanistan. They protested the building of a gas line through the country, which would have brought billions of dollars to the regime.

Back when few in our country understood her cause, Mavis tapped celebrities to raise money for the secret home schooling of girls in Afghanistan.

"The universal source of torment to the women there is that they can't educate their girls," explained Mavis. "Many of them say, 'Our lives are over,' but they are not willing to write off their children's lives. This is why we got involved."

"She really married down and I married up," laughed Jay. "It worked out great because people go, 'Why did she marry that idiot, she seems so smart.' ... I like being Mr. Mavis."

On message

The couple will celebrate 21 years of marriage November 30. Mavis is unlikely to accompany Jay overseas on this trip, but plans to continue her fight for women's rights under a new Afghan government. She insists there is no negotiating with the Taliban.

"They can call it religion, they can call it tribal. I know fear and hatred when I see it -- they hate women," said Mavis.

Jay puts it another way. "The Taliban is like that Woody Allen movie 'Bananas' where they go, 'Put your underwear on the outside' -- uh, OK. I mean, it's not a religion. They're a bunch of idiots."

The two Lenos might speak with different voices, but it's the same message.


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