by Kelly Twa, Grade 12 student
This year’s Me To We Day hosted by Free the Children in Vancouver was an experience that exceeded expectations all around. Also known as “a rock concert for social change,” Me to We Day could be descibed in one word: inspiring. The purpose of the event was to motivate youth to be the change that they wish to see in the world, by involving themselves locally and globally. Sixteen thousand youth were treated to world-renowned speakers like Jane Goodall and the Dalai Lama as well as performers such as Sarah McLachlan and K’naan. It was truly incredible to have speakers of such high caliber put forth their belief in the youth of today to change our world tomorrow.
The day began with a few speeches; founder Craig Keilburger started Free The Children when he was only 12 years old and he has yet to lose his enthusiasm and passion for this cause. Although Free the Children is a charity that focuses on international development through their adopt a village campaign, this year there was a heavier focus on “thinking global, acting local.” Craig and his fellow speakers encouraged youth to get involved in their community. Marc Keilburger stated, “We are all born leaders.” Whether picking up garbage, feeding the homeless, or raising funds for a cause is what you love to do — we all have the capacity for service.
Crowd favorites were plentiful and included Michel Chikwanine from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He awed and inspired crowds with his recollection of being kidnapped and turned into a child soldier at the age of five. His arms were cut open and filled with cocaine and gunpowder by rebel army leaders. He was then blindfolded and forced to shoot and kill his best friend without knowing.
On another spectrum, We Day attendees were fortunate to be in the presence of the 14th Dalai Lama. There was a couch set up on stage for his holyness, but after being seated he ran up to the front of the stage to make a speech. Behind his slightly yellow tinted square glasses stands a man of a kind heart and soft humor. He joked about the sincerity of his mother as he used to ride on her shoulders, pulling at her ears to change directions. His mother, he said, taught him the importance of compassion. Two things he wanted us to remember was to use our minds (our wisdom) and our hearts (our compassion), while fighting for peace in a conflicting world. SMUS was lucky to have front row seats to this event. Yes, very front row, meaning that the Dalai Lama literally addressed his speech to the individuals sitting in his line of sight, us SMUS students! This was an experience I will never forget.
Musicians like the Three Canadian Tenors, Sarah McLachlan and K’naan were fantastic performers that made the event that much more exciting. In Craig’s final speech, he introduced a game plan for youth of today including canned food drives this halloween, a day of silence, and a barefoot day to support those with no shoes. The afternoon ended with a memorable performance by Jason Mraz. He played his signature songs “I’m Yours” and “Dyanamo of Volition,” which seemed to get the crowds the most excited they had been all night. All the students and teachers that had the opportunity to attend this event lucked out on an amazing experience. There was clearly a lot of work that went into this event put on completely by the charity workers — not to mention tickets for most schools had no cost! Hopefully those who didn’t get the chance will look into this event next year. We are the generation that we have been waiting for — be the change!