This morning I am at GM Place for Free the Children’s We Day… and so are 16,000 enthusiastic young people.
I haven’t had much time to live blog but I have been tweeting from the floor of the arena (which you can view in the pane below):
It has been an amazing morning with thousands of excited and motivated kids and youth who have been hanging on every word from every speaker her at We Day. Each Nobel Laureate, TV star, politician and host is treated like a rockstar by the crowd. The kids were instructed how to do a “cell phone wave”, hug their neighbour, and chant about change. The thing that struck a chord with me is that the speakers were informing everyone about issues around the globe, and the help that is desperately needed, yet they also let the children know they can help close to home. They brought home the fact that they can do any act, no matter how small, and make a difference in their family, their schools, and their communities.
The children sat and listened while the Dalai Lama spoke of compassion, and they applauded the Governor General Michaelle Jean when she told them they were the leaders of today — not just tomorrow. Motivational speaker Spencer West ended his talk by quoting Dr Seuss: “Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So… get on your way.”
The event, which is also being webcast by CTV, will take place in Toronto in the near future as well.
Update: I am now back in the press room and there is a very distinguished line up of speakers coming to visit us for Q&A. The first of such is Dr Jane Goodall. “Every individual makes an impact every day,” she notes. The room is filled with traditional media, cameras, and student journalists who have been given the chance to take part today. Dr Goodall has a new book out and is active with the Roots & Shoots program across Canada. She talks about the bridge between environmental & humanitarian issues. “It became very obvious that without helping the people improve their lives and live in an environmentally sustainable way, there was no help for the chimpanzees.”
Update: Sarah McLachlan is next in the Q&A room and she comments on the Dalai Lama’s message about compassion that comes from our mothers. One of the young reporters in the room asks her when she realized she could use her singing voice to have such an influence and go good. McLachlan references a trip she took with World Vision (along with Much Music) to Thailand and Cambodia years ago which was
“an incredible eye-opener” for her.
Update: Mia Farrow is our next presenter in the room and someone asked how she got involved with We Day. She said that she spends most of her activist life banging her head against the wall and after being introduced to 8,000-10,000 kids at last year’s We Day, it was such a rush for her. Mia is also beaming after meeting the Dalai Lama, “who wouldn’t be” she says as she talks about his inspiration. If you scroll through my Tweets from earlier, Mia had a slide show on stage featuring images from her trips to Sudan – where she has just spent the last 6 months as well. “I can be tempted toward despair but I feel it’s more productive to be galvanized and take action.”
Update: Recording artist Jason Mraz is up next. “I realized the enormous responsibility I had to communicate with people through music,” noted Mraz. A young reporter sitting behind me asked him how he can use his music for social good. “There’s something about music,” he said. “When you put a message with a melody it seems to travel so much further.” Jason was also at the Vancouver Peace Summit this weekend to see the Dalai Lama speak.
Update: Craig Kielburger is the founder of Free the Children and tells us all more about the Give Your 10 initiative.
Update: While Louise Kent and the cast of Degrassi (the new generation) enter the Q&A room, K’naan hits the stage out in the arena and performs “Wavin’ Flag” while thousands sing along.
Update: “Money is not what you strive for, it’s community.” Words of wisdom from Michel Chikwanine, passed on from his father. Michel is a former child soldier who is now a part of the Free the Children campaigns – he tells his story to others so that the travesties he’s seen may never be repeated.
As a side note, it’s humbling to see all of these motivational people get excited about meeting each other. They all pull inspiration from the Dalai Lama and even Mia Farrow lit up and the chance of talking with Dr Jane Goodall.
The entire day has been overwhelming for many. The children have been so enthusiastic while Marc and Craig brought together these inspiring thought leaders and activists to get their message out. The theme was that these kids are the present and they can do something now. They have the power to demand change and to make that change happen. You can read more from Free the Children on their website or follow them on Twitter @FreeTheChildren. Each child in the audience today was also challenged to put forward an action pledge to help with some sort of change locally, or globally, with Give Your 10.
Update: Craig Kielburger posted a link to Jason Mraz’s performance on Twitter:
You can view the rest of my photos from today on Flickr.