WE was founded in 1995 by then-12-year-old Craig Kielburger after he read a newspaper story about Iqbal Masih, a former slave who was murdered after speaking out against the horrors of child labour. The tale struck a nerve, and Craig knew he had to do something to help free other children embroiled in child labour. Along with his older brother, Marc Kielburger, he started WE Charity.
More than 20 years later, WE Charity has expanded beyond the issue of child labour to include a sustainable model of international development, called WE Villages, that works to alleviate the root causes of poverty in nine countries around the world. Through a service-learning program called WE Schools, youth in North America and the UK are empowered to become change-makers themselves. The only way to get to a WE Day event is by taking action on one local and one global issue through WE Schools—you can’t buy a ticket. (WE website)
To be amongst all of you progressive, motivated, open minded, change-makers, is what gives me hope for the future.
Your optimism is inspiring – you see opportunities where other people see challenges; you seek solutions when others just focus on problems.
You are the most engaged generation in history. You care about values, doing the right thing, and championing the causes that will shape your future.
You don’t judge someone based on how they look, where they’re from, or how they identify.
In this room, you see the world for what it is – vibrant, colourful, mixed and full of promise.
That is who you are, and that is what makes me feel proud to stand in your presence as you tackle the world’s greatest issues. And you guys know as well as I do, we’ve still got so much to do.
As far as I see it, there are two absolutely crucial issues that we need to focus on, and my hope is that a 1000 more issues will be cured in the process.
First, let’s take OUR mental health;
which you’ve embraced whole heartedly, breaking the generational stigma and helping to normalise the conversation.
After all, mental illness is about recovery, mental health is about consciousness, mental fitness is about well-being.
To be happy is to be mindful,
mindful of your feelings,
mindful of your surroundings,
and mindful of the 7.7 billion other humans that inhabit this planet.
And while we’re on the topic of health, let’s talk about the health of our planet too.
Climate change, is a humanitarian issue not a political one, and one where we’ve been far too slow in waking up to the issues and acting on the damaging impact our ways of living are having on the world.
We now have the facts, the science, the technology and the ability to save not just our planet, but ourselves.
I know you don’t sit back and wait for solutions, you take action and create them.
Our world’s greatest assets are threatened every day and it is SO important that we support local communities to safeguard every element of this incredible world.
Every forest, every river, every ocean, every coastline, every insect, every wild animal. Every blade of grass, every ray of sun and every rain drop is crucial to our survival.
It is all connected, we are all inter-connected. You in this room understand that and are already making this a safer, healthier and more resilient home for all of us and for generations to come.
And for that I applaud you.
If we look at the world we’re living in,
I know it can feel challenging sometimes, but your role is to shine the light.
Every day you are inundated with an overexposure of advertising and mainstream media, social media and endless comparisons, distorting the truth, and trying to manipulate the power of positive thinking. But you don’t let them sway you.
Because you don’t need to hide behind your device to share your voice. You confidently voice your opinions because you can embrace them proudly.
As my wife often reminds me with one of her favourite quotes by Martin Luther King Jr. – “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
You aren’t always going to agree,
you may find yourselves frustrated with the older generation when it seems like they don’t care.
But try to remove that judgment.
Try to remember that not everyone sees the world the way you do,
but that doesn’t mean they don’t care.
It means you have the incredible opportunity to help reshape mindsets, to empower those around you to think outside the box, and to work with you, not against you, to find solutions.
You know that if you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything.
So let that be your true north, let that be your call to action – to inspire those who stand for nothing, to stand for something -and to stand WITH you.
So what’s next, what’s on your to-do list starting now…
Be kind to each other
Be kind to yourselves
Have less screen time, and more face to face time
Protect wildlife and their unique habitat
Keep empathy alive
Ask your friends how they are doing and listen to the answer
Change your thoughts and change the world
Dare to be the greatest generation of all time
I am with you, we are with you!