Photos of by Janine Van Oostrom
They say that those who control the youth control the future and after sitting in the jam packed ACC for We Day, I have to say that they are probably right. Me to We is an international movement that is focused on the empowerment of youth; every year thousands upon thousand of those youth gather in stadiums all around North America for We Day.
Every year We Day attracts some of the biggest A-List stars with past lineups including Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Nick Jonas, Hozier, and Macklemore. All of the way from inspirational speakers to musical performances We Day offers something for everyone; from the primary school children to the parents who have tagged along with them. The most wonderful thing about We Day is the diversity of issues that are touched upon. While the Me to We movement is most well known for its mission trips all over the world and a focus on things like building schools and accessible water supplies, We Day did not actually focus on those things at all. The focus was on a wide variety of topics that included basically every social issue that our world is facing today. The day was kicked off by Lily Singh who opened up the conversation on the girl movement that she has started. She discussed using her platform on youtube to preach girl love, something that is very important to talk about especially in front of a room of young impressionable girls. Other topics included Connor Franta talking about coming out, Winnie Harlow discussing the importance of body positivity, and Zendaya talking about AIDS awareness.
Yet it doesn’t stop there, Jacob Tremblay came forward and talked about the importance of kindness and Paula Abdul preached about the importance of dance and its ability to break the borders of language. Yet for me two of the most moving talks came from Margaret Trudeau and Chris Hadfield. Trudeau discussed a variety of topics around mental health; she has been a lifelong advocate for bipolar disorder and one of the first people to really talk about the stigma of mental health. It was truly empowering to hear her talk about how through medication and a strong support system mental health isn’t unbeatable. The final speaker of the day was Chris Hadfield, Canada’s most famous astronaut. He discussed a perspective that very few get to experience, seeing the earth from outer space. He talked from a much more global perspective, describing how we are not separated by borders and “the world’s issues are our issues”.
On top of motivational speakers there was a fair share of musical performances from the likes of Hedley, Coleman Hell, Jason Derulo, Macklemore, and Gord Downie. Although all of the musical performances were well done with wonderful production it is obvious that Downie stole the show. Downie sang “The Stranger” from his just released album Secret Path. Downies performance was emotionally charged and riddled with a deep message about residential schools in Canada. Then after he performed he was joined by a first nations lady who survived a residential school and his brother and then a traditional indian prayer was sang. All I can say is I’d be surprised if their was a single dry eye in the entire arena.
The entire We Day experience is one that is hard to explain for someone who has never experienced it. It is impossible to sit in that arena and not be inspired to make a difference in this world. We Day is one of the most important movements around because it targets the youth, a group who are traditionally disregarded in terms of social justice. Craig and Marc Kielburger have created a movement that everyone can stand behind; whether you are supporting the fight to stop hunger or the fight to end the stigma of mental health or just about any issue in between.