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A Warm Winnipeg Welcome
Winnipeg may have a reputation as being a cold city, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned from our first We Day here is that the people are anything but. The warm hearts of the 16,000 student leaders inside the MTS Centre helped draw out the best from all of our performers and speakers throughout the day and we know everyone left feeling empowered to change the world.
Craig and Marc Kielburger kicked off the day by firing up the crowd with their introductory speech that helped define the day. “It’s about coming together with old friends and new ones to make a difference,” Craig said. “We Day is dedication. We Day is generosity. It’s the movement of our time.”
The audience was then graced with renowned actress, humanitarian and Free The Children ambassador Mia Farrow. She was soon enchanting her young listeners who, it seemed, had already enchanted her. “You guys are the change. I can feel it.” She shared some inspiring photography of Haiti and Kenya before urging all youth to “do the things you think you cannot do. You are the generation I have been waiting for.”
Vice President Al Gore, a Noble Laureate and revered champion of the environment, illustrated that young people are typically at the forefront of social change. “Growing up in the South I witnessed the rise of the civil rights movement.” Referencing the ultimate abolishment of discriminatory segregation laws, he noted: “Change came when young people asked (questions of) people older than them. And when older people could not answer those questions, the laws began to change.”
“You can make a change,” Gore told the crowd. “Make the world a better place.”
The afternoon began with a little local flavour. Hanna Taylor, whose charitable Ladybug Foundation has now raised over $3 million to raise awareness of and combat homelessness issues, told her fellow Winnipeggers exactly what to fear. “Be afraid of not caring.” There are people dying from homelessness and a lack of care, she said. “Every single person in this room cares.” Before leaving Taylor had the crowd on its feet and hollering atop their lungs: “I CARE!”
If anyone could use that sentiment as a mantra it’s the true We Day hero who followed. Rick Hansen, who’s Man in Motion campaign has brought him through 34 countries and raised $26 million for spinal-cord research, talked of life as a meaningful path.
“We are all on our journeys,” said Hansen, whose spine was shattered in a car accident when he was 15. Even when he decided to make a difference in the world, his start was plagued with awkwardness, self-doubt and fatigue. But somehow he “found one more stroke.” And for that moment – when he somehow managed to dig deep and hit the unforgiving road again – he is ever grateful. Hansen’s far from done, of course. He hopes to one day relegate the wheelchair to museum showpiece, claiming that: “My best work is still to come. If we come together, anything is possible.”
No less inspiring, Spencer West stood tall and shared the value and inspiration of support. If Africa produced his We-Day moment of inspiration, it was his parents who helped him to redefine possible; West looked all around the We Day crowd and said he saw the potential in every single person present, “just like my parents saw the potential in me.”
Craig and Marc’s keynote address topped off the day and truly underlined why we all came to We Day in Winnipeg. Change is needed now, and not just in far-off, third-world countries. It’s needed right in our own backyard. The state of Aboriginal education in Canada is one pressing matter: nearly 60 per cent of students on reserves won’t graduate. That needs to change.
They then reminded everyone that many of today’s speakers – people like Al Gore, Hannah Taylor and Spencer West – all faced their own obstacles. And yet they all took action. They may have started alone, but they weren’t alone for long. We Day is just the start of a year of action, and everyone needs to remember they have a lot of new friends – with plenty of ways to connect. And plenty of ways to make a difference.
“When you stand up,” they said, “all of us are standing with you.”
Craig and Marc left centre stage to thunderous applause. But before everyone left the MTS Centre, there was time for one more super-charged performance by crowd fave Hedley, who performed One Life and Invincible passionately.
That’s it for We Day in Winnipeg. But there’s plenty to do between now and Montreal’s double dose of We Days later this winter. Don’t forget to visit weday.com to find out how you can get (and stay) involved. We’ll see you for We Day in Montreal on Wednesday, February 29! And the following day, March 1, for the first-ever National We Day!