What an inspiring day! Thank you Manitoba for another incredible WE Day! After such a warm welcome last year, we are so excited to be back in the province for the second time – fittingly, just one block from the historic Odeon Theatre where, in 1914, Nellie McClung staged the mock parliament that ultimately helped women win the right to vote! With the upcoming opening of the Human Rights Museum, Winnipeg remains a bastion for civil rights. That was certainly the case in the arena today as we heard from incredible speakers and performers like Hannah Taylor, Mikhail Gorbachev, Lights, Allstar Weekend, and of course Craig and Marc Kielburger.
The first to take the stage, Craig and Marc warmly welcomed the crowd to WE Day. They urged the audience to work together with their like-minded peers to create extraordinary change. The impacts are there for all to see, said the Kielburgers. “Since last WE Day we have collected over 800,000 pounds of food to fight hunger in Canada, volunteered over 1.7 million hours and have raised more than 5 million dollars to support so many causes.”
To really kick off the event, the brothers welcomed local youth Hannah Taylor to the stage to great applause. After witnessing a man digging through a dumpster on a cold winter day, Hannah founded the Ladybug Foundation when she was only 8 years old. Now a teenager and a passionate activist for homeless people across Canada, Hannah’s compassion was obvious in the words she shared with her peers in the audience. “You are not here to fill a space or be a background character in someone else’s movie. Consider this: nothing would be the same if you didn’t exist…Never stop caring.”
Craig returned to the stage later in the morning to interview former President of the Soviet Union and Nobel Laureate Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev, who received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to reform the Soviet Union and end the Cold War, received a stirring ovation. And rightly so. He is responsible for so much change in the world. He admits at the height of the Cold War, there were 100,000 nuclear warheads pointed between east and west. “Each of them capable of destroying a city the size of Winnipeg,” he said, ominously. But stronger still were his words of encouragement for all the young people at WE Day. “Preserve peace,” he said.“Without peace, no other problems can be solved. Work for peace and work for freedom.”
Next, 17-year-old Victoria Duffield got the crowd out of their seats with her song Break My Heart. In the middle of her song, she happily declared her excitement at being a part of the day. The audience enthusiastically (and loudly) approved.
A crowd favourite and great inspiration, ME to WE speaker and Free The Children ambassador Spencer West wowed the crowd with the motivating story of his climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. Spencer completed the climb with his two best friends, and spoke about the power of teamwork in completing our goals. His mountain conquered, he humbly stated his intention for the day. “My job here is to make sure all of you leave today inspired and ready to tackle your own mountain,” he said. “The world needs your help.”
JUNO Award winner Lights got the crowd on their feet in the afternoon with her performance of her song Toes. Lights rocked it at WE Day Alberta last week and we were so excited to have her back at WE Day for the second time.
Molly Burke was next to take the stage – and everyone’s heart. The newest ME to WE and Free The Children speaker, Molly captivated the audience with her powerful story. Completely blind, Molly has been a victim of bullying her whole life. When she shared her message that any issue – from loss of vision to bullying – can be overcome, the audience stood in solidarity and support. “This is our time to lead. And, we need to come together, and find our voice on this issue (of bullying),” Molly said. With a story that clearly resonated deeply with the audience, Molly and her best friend and guide dog Gypsy left the stage to a rousing standing ovation.
In their keynote address, Craig and Marc Kielburger spoke about the civil rights movement in Canada, and how grateful we should be for leaders like Nellie McClung. McLung–whose family home in Winnipeg is a historic site–championed for the rights of all Canadians. Quoting McClung, Craig and Marc asked the crowd to repeat after them: “Never retreat. Never explain. Never apologize.”
Finally, newcomers to WE Day, power-pop band Allstar Weekend, closed out the show with their song Not Your Birthday. And it’s safe to say everyone was in a celebratory mood as they left the arena today! See you here next year!
WE Day is free of charge to the thousands of students and educators in attendance, thanks to the generous support of sponsors led by National Co-Title Sponsors RBC and TELUS. Young people earn their way into the event by committing to take action on at least one local and one global issue through Free The Children’s year long engagement programs. Learn more at www.freethechildren.com/weschools