The words of Martin Luther King never lose their potency. Whether reading them or hearing his voice boom out the truth, you are covered with chills. It’s no mistake then that the founders of We Day and Free the Children, Craig and Marc Kielburger, choose to share King’s message throughout their one day show, because no one knew how to mobilize people better than King and no one knows how to mobilize our youth better than the Kielburgers.
In Ottawa alone yesterday, the We Day team, brought together 16,000 impassioned youth for a one-of-a-kind celebration of music, inspiration and leadership. Ready to have your mind blown? These kids didn’t buy their way in, they earned their way in through service to others. How’s that for shattering stereotypes? That’s 16,000 young people working hard to make our community a better place. That’s 16,000 young people who will grow up knowing that giving back makes a difference. Okay, maybe not all 16,000. How about 12,800 of them?
Around for almost twenty years now, Free The Children asked Mission Measurement to go back and check on the alumni of the movement started in 1995 by Craig Kielburger. What they found was impressive. 80% of their youth volunteers go on to volunteer as adults and 83% continue to donate to the causes they love. Even more impressive though is that 79% of these alumni vote regularly in elections, blowing away their parents sad showing at the polls.
The success of this movement cannot be undervalued because what the Kielburgers and Free the Children have done is mobilized a generation to value their voice, to understand that what they say matters. It matters when a Queen values your opinion so much she comes to speak to you. It matters when the son of one of the world’s greatest human rights activists, come to inspire you. It matters because We Day, doesn’t say “there, there, you can change things when you’re older”, We Day tells our kids they can make a difference now.
My two daughters joined me yesterday and I believe the impact on them will be profound, the knowledge slowly beginning to process in their minds now. My youngest was enamored with Spencer West, the double amputee who climbed Mount Kilamanjaro. Spencer is a Me to We ambassador and motivational speaker, who doesn’t want you to be impressed he made it up Kilmanjaro, but rather to realize that if he can do it, you can too. She was also rendered speechless by Ashley Murphy, a young lady who was born with HIV and given weeks to live. This young lady took the stage with such bravado it was an honour to be in her presence. Expect even greater things from Ashley in her next 16 years.
My oldest daughter, kept asking me questions. Can I go to Ecuador to build schools? Can I organize a bake sale? Can I help girls get a better education? Can I do to Me to We camp? She kept testing my limits. While Free the Children’s mandate is still to free children around the world from abysmal circumstances and to make the world a better place for all children, I can’t help but think they are helping to free our children too. Freeing the ones that are coddled and helicoptered over. Freeing the ones that don’t know what lies outside our borders. And finally, freeing the ones dying to make a difference.
So my answer to all my daughter’s questions was this “Yes dear, you can”, because I’m not going to be her hurdle. I’m going to be her vault.