SASKATOON — We Day returned to Saskatchewan Nov. 7, with some 15,000 youth, educators and guests filling SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon for a day of inspiring speeches and performances.
Youth in attendance shared something in common: they had worked hard throughout the past year planting seeds of change in their communities. Participants can’t buy a ticket to We Day; rather, they earn a spot at the high-power gathering by taking on one local and one global action to make the world a better place.
We Day is an initiative of Free the Children, the international charity and educational partner co-founded by Craig and Mark Kielburger. We Day is a series of inspirational stadium-sized events that began in 2007, involving some 200,000 students from 5,000 schools each year.
We Day in Saskatoon this year included Vice Chief Mark Arcand of the Saskatoon Tribal Council and elders stepping on stage to give a traditional Aboriginal blessing to the crowd to open the day.
Robin Wiszowaty introduced the topic of economic empowerment, and welcomed Mama Leah, who had travelled from her community in East Africa to share how the women in her community have become empowered through a project known as Me to We Artisans, and are now earning an income for their families.
Retired Canadian Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire shared his inspiring story with the crowd, and talked to the audience about the power of technology and how it can change the world.
“Technology and communications are making you a revolutionary generation,” he told the crowd. Participants were using technology and social media during We Day itself to highlight and share the messages and information they were hearing. Youth speaker Sara Copeland described some of the lessons she learned as the recipient of the PotashCorp Food Security Youth Trip, an opportunity she won at last year’s We Day. She encouraged the youth in the audience to spread their roots and really chase their dreams.
Speaker Spencer West described how technology affected his own life, before introducing physician and astronaut Dave Williams. Williams told the crowd about his adventures as an astronaut, and how anyone can achieve huge dreams with a good work ethic.
“Believe in what you want to do,” he told the crowd, wearing his signature blue jumpsuit. “Work really hard with passion and persistence. You, too, can have your dreams come true.”
Social empowerment was the theme introduced by speakers Shawn Desman and Hannah Alper. They were joined on stage by actress Marlee Matlin, who told the audience how being deaf has never held her back from achieving her goals. “The barriers that are out there lie in the minds of those who wish to handicap you,” Matlin told the crowd by signing and using an interpreter. “Never let anyone define who you are.”
Merchant Marine Captain Richard Phillips, whose story about being hijacked by Somali pirates was made into a movie, also spoke at We Day, telling youth, “You are stronger than you even know!”
In his message to the Saskatchewan crowd, Craig Kielburger emphasized that education is freedom and encouraged youth to use their natural talents to make the world a better place.
Jochen Tilk, the CEO of PotashCorp (one of the sponsors of the event), then welcomed the Illuminate dance group to light up the stage with an empowering performance piece. Other performers throughout We Day included Kardinal Offishall, SonReal, Karl Wolf, Neverest and Nikki Yanofsky.
We Day has also been held this fall in Winnipeg, Calgary, Minnesota, Ontario, and Atlantic Canada, with more events scheduled across Canada and the United States in the New Year.