The rain couldn’t stop the passion of WE Day California from shining through!
Sixteen thousand youth and educators arrived at Oracle Arena this morning ready to celebrate change. For the past year, they have been busy making local and global change, and this morning they were excited to gather together for the very first WE Day California!
The day started powerfully – after a moving performance by the Culture Shock dance group, Martin Luther King III took the stage to share lessons about social justice with the crowd. “It only takes a few good women and men to bring about change!” The crowd roared in agreement, and got even louder when King brought Free The Children co-founders Craig and Marc Kielburger to the stage!
After introducing themselves to the audience, Craig and Marc shared the story of Free The Children, and how the movement was inspired by a brave youth named Iqbal Masih. The brothers encouraged the audience to speak up, like Iqbal did, about issues they are passionate about. “A dream shared by many becomes a movement!” Craig shouted.
Many of the students in the audience hadn’t heard Iqbal’s story before – it was a moving moment as they learned how, at the age of 12, he was shot for standing up for what he believed.
Always a WE Day-favorite, Martin Sheen was next on stage! Sheen shared some words of wisdom with the students about dreaming for the future, saying, “”You are dreaming things that never were and saying ‘Why not?!” We know his inspiring words will help motivate the students for another year of action!
WE Day welcomed a wordsmith to the stage next – Big Sean! Students (and teachers!) crowded around the stage to sing along with Big Sean, who wowed the crowd with his message. “Karma is real,” he said.“ How you act and treat people will come back to you.” The crowd sang and danced along with him to his hit Beware and we knew the arena was full of friends!
Stepping onto the WE Day stage for the very first time was actor and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Orlando Bloom. Bloom told the crowd a shocking story about a back injury he experienced as a teenager. When he recovered he had a new lease on life. He told the students to embrace challenges, saying, “Recognize challenges for what they are – moments of growth, battle scars on your journey, badges of honor decorating your lives!”
Next up in the ring was Laila Ali, four-time world boxing champion and daughter of global icon & humanitarian Muhammad Ali. Laila shared the importance of friendship, and standing up for those who are being bullied. “Success is doing what you love, helping others along the way, and being happy.”
The afternoon started off strong as the Tenors and Young Stitch hit the stage with a powerful performance of their song Free The Children. Later in the day, musical master Reggie Watts treated the audience to an amazing performance (and some even more amazing dance moves).
Sports fans went wild as players from the Raiders and the 49ers hopped on stage to motivate the crowd to strive for their dreams. As they tossed footballs out to the crowd we couldn’t help think that maybe they even inspired some students to become future teammates!
Next on stage was Rwandan Genocide survivor Clemantine Wamariya. She told her story of hardship and how she had to flee her home as refugee, leading her to feel invisible in the world and rejected by everyone. That was until a complete stranger showed her kindness, and provided her with some food. “You do not need to be powerful, you do not need to be wealthy to raise someone’s spirit!” she urged. “I dare you to be aware of others. I dare you to be mindful of people around you.” With those simple but powerful words she inspired thousands of students today to reach out to those in need.
Evanna Lynch stepped on stage for her second WE Day speech to thunderous applause; showing there were more than a few Harry Potter fans in the house! Like many young people, Evanna struggled with insecurities growing up, and shared her advice with the WE Day students who could relate. She told them not to change for anybody else, and to use their own special talents to create good. “You’re you,” she told the crowd. “Use that to change the world!”
Laughter filled the arena as Seth Rogen spoke to the thousands of students at WE Day. However, things got a little more serious when Seth opened up about his mother-in-law’s experience with Alzheimer’s disease. To help fund research for a cure, Seth used his talents as a comedian to plan an event, Hilarity for Charity. He encouraged the students to also use their talents to create positive change in the world, saying, “You can be selfless and selfish at the same time. You can do the stuff you love doing, and use that help people at the same time!” We’re sure he sparked many world-changing ideas during his speech!
Up next was a crowd-favorite and WE Day California co-chair Magic Johnson. He had everyone cheering, and even jumping, during his inspiring speech. His message was to give back to those in need in any way possible, whether through charitable donations, or simply just offering a shoulder to lean on. “When you see somebody being discriminated against, you have to aid them and support them.” Magic’s message was strong and we know the WE Day crowd will take it to heart!
Screams filled the arena as Selena Gomez stepped on stage. Selena shared her life story with the students, and the hardships she encountered as people doubted her, and tried to stifle her passions. She told the crowd to never ever give up on their dreams, and to be confident in their goals. “I don’t know how to be anything but myself!” she stated. What an amazing message!
The show came to a close in a big way – J Cole owned the stage with his performance of Crooked Smile that had everyone smiling!
WE Day California, you were golden! We can’t wait to see how you’ll create change in the coming year!
WE Day is free of charge to the thousands of students and teachers in attendance, thanks to the extraordinary support of sponsors, led in California by Co-Title Sponsors Microsoft, The Allstate Foundation and Unilever. Learn more about WE Day California here.