WE Day Toronto, did WE turn it up or what!!!
Today 20,000 youth, educators and guests joined us at the Air Canada Centre for a day of celebration and learning! And believe it or not, guests started creating change before they even walked into the venue. Maple Leaf Square was transformed overnight into a massive We Scare Hunger food drive thanks to Sobeys and Ford! Students and teachers filled boxes with healthy non-perishable donations; an incredible way to start the day.
The moment WE Day started in earnest it was clear that this year things were going to be a little different. WE Day transformed into the largest (and loudest) classroom in the world! To kick off the school day, youth got moving to Kardinal Offishall and Karl Wolf’s new song We Turn it Up (check out how you can record your own WE Day Dance to the song)! Then everybody settled into their seats for the first class of the day – Economic Empowerment.
Robin Wiszowaty was our first period teacher, and introduced a special guest to tell us about economic empowerment, Mama Leah. Robin’s Maasai mama joined us all the way from Kenya to tell us about the impact ME to WE Artisans has had on her life. “Now I am empowered. Now we are empowered, now we have jobs, now we have a future and a say in our communities.” Our substitute teacher Nelly Furtado then introduced us to two amazing students from Free The Children’s Kisaruni All Girls Secondary School. Irene and Joan told the crowd about their history of education, and how they are now economically empowered female leaders in their community.
Next up was technology class, and the room was buzzing with electricity! With Spencer West as our teacher, the crowd learned about We365, and how it helps you change the world from the palm of your hand. Next up, Spencer introduced an innovative Canadian who has been high up in space, and even to the very bottom of the ocean—Col. Chris Hadfield! Chris encouraged the audience to become technological explorers. “The decisions you make, the actions you take they will create your own future,” he told the crowd. “They will change the world around you.” Chris then introduced a friend of his to the stage who is the definition of girl power—rocket scientist Natalie Panek! “Dare to achieve the impossible,” she said to a crowd we know was full of innovators and inventors!
The next class was one we know the audience excelled at based on the number of tweets and posts we saw online. Teachers Hannah Alper and Shawn Desman taught Social Empowerment, and showed us how important it is to treat others who are different than you with kindness. A powerful WE Day moment occurred next when motivational youth speaker Ashley Murphy told the crowd about her experiences living with HIV, and how she overcomes challenges. “We can all turn our weaknesses into strengths,” she said to the crowd, which went completely silent during her speech. “ROCK your differences!”
Our last class of the day was what school is all about—education. Craig Kielburger stepped in as teacher for this class, and shared his passion for education and embracing your natural skills. “You are gifted, we all have a gift, something unique to share,” he said.
Next up was a woman who has educated thousands throughout her career as an anchor and author—Katie Couric! Katie spoke about her upcoming documentary Fed Up, and how she educated herself on a cause she cares about to create it.
To read Katie Couric’s inspiring speech, click here.
Following Katie came another champion of education who has followed in his grandfather’s footsteps. Kweku Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s grandson, was invited up on stage by Marc and Craig to talk about his grandfather, emphasizing that empowerment means freedom. “Seize this moment because it is yours,” he urged as he left the stage to a roar of applause!
WE Day, you made every class rock—literally! We couldn’t have class without a little rock and roll! Throughout the day the crowd of thousands were on their feet, singing along with performers such as Lights, Hedley, Neverest, R5 and Kardinal Offishall!
We even had a secret surprise guest join us today—Kendrick Lamar! He had WE Day Toronto on their feet for the very first live performance of his inspiring song i. What a historic WE Day moment! And while you all rocked hard in the arena, we know you’ll rock even harder in your local and global communities after WE Day! WE Day Toronto, keep taking action and bring your dreams to life!
We’ll see you all soon at WE Day Vancouver on October 22!