The morning of November 9th I woke up to somber political news from south of the border. Like many, I was left feeling shocked, confused, scared, and uneasy. I also didn’t know how to share the news with my eight-year-old daughter, who was greatly interested in the possibility of a female president of the United States.
I spoke to my disappointed daughter about the fact that people will work together for the greater good under the new American presidency because that’s what good people do - but I remained doubtful. There was good news that morning though; my daughter would be joining me as a Junior Reporter at our first ever WE Day. She was very excited to be going, especially once she heard Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would be speaking.
Until that day, I had only heard about the WE Day events that are held across Canada (and the US) every year, but I had never attended. I had heard kids at my daughter’s bus stop talk about how excited they were to go and how inspired they were once the event was over. I knew the youth-focused event consisted of musicians, actors and well known public figures, but what I didn’t realize is that WE Day is a part of a powerful movement that brings people together and gives them tools and resources to change the world.
WE “engages and empowers youth to lead through service, build compassionate communities and transform participants into active world-changers in the process.”
WE Day Ottawa opened with Governor General David Johnston entering the stage with a joyful little dance that made everyone smile. He explained what the day was all about. Co-hosted by E! hosts Tyrone Edwards and Chloe Wilde as well as award-winning singer-song writer, Jully Black and Canadian TV Host Maripier Morin, the motivational day kicked off with a positive and uplifting vibe that made everyone in the Canadian Tire Centre applaud, cheer and smile.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Every adult in the room hung onto Prime Minister Trudeau’s words that morning. Everyone listened as he told us, “ no matter one’s age – we all have a responsibility to take a positive role in shaping the future of Canada and the world.”
WE Are Canada
Prime Minister Trudeau also spoke about an exciting new WE initiative called #WEAreCanada. In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, WE has created a bilingual educational curriculum that will directly engage millions of young Canadians to focus on making local, national and international impacts. For every We Are Canada Pledge made at WE.ca, $10 will be donated to support WE’s local and global programs. The #WeAreCanada movement is a great way for Canada's youth to celebrate our country’s unique diversity and culture.
Throughout the day we heard from numerous motivational speakers including American singer-songwriter, Paula Abdul, who talked about making the things we want to do possible. Paula talked about how her passion to be a dancer superseded the negative comments she received and that her passion is what led her to be a cheerleader for the Lakers, which in effect opened the doors to future opportunities. She also emphasized the fact that we need to lift each other up and make each other better.
Inspiring speakers and performers of WE Day Ottawa
The rest of the day followed the same principle – to lift each other up, help one another and spread love and acceptance. Margaret Trudeau spoke about mental health stigma and shared stories from her own battle with bipolar disorder.
Other inspirational speakers included Rick Hansen, Jacob Hoggard, Michael Downie (brother of Gord Downie) and the sisters of Chanie Wenjack. We also heard empowering speeches from the 17-year old author of Kakuma Girls, Clare Morneau, who spoke about the stories she collected for the book from girls in the Kakuma Refugee Camp, and artist and Make-A-Wish recipient, Annie Bartlett.
Intermixed with the inspirational and philanthropic messages and stories were uplifting performances from Classified, Serena Ryder, Tyler Shaw and Hedley.
The WE co-founders, Craig and Marc Keilburger spoke about the amazing achievements made by WE Day youth activists and energized the crowd with their passion to promote positive change at the community and global levels.
At the end of the day, the message I took away from my time at WE Day Ottawa was that the world can be changed by just one person - and it starts with our youth. In addition to taking the time to familiarize ourselves and our children with the issues that are affecting the global community, we need to also create positive change in our own neighbourhoods, including helping our kids #RiseAbove cyberbullying.
Anyone can participate in the WE Movement – all it takes is a commitment to make change in the world. And what better time to work toward positive changes in our world then right now!
In the words of my Junior Reporter, “WE day is a day where people inspire other people and where people talk a lot about the good things they do, and not the bad things they do. If you go, you will see people on stage and people cheering. You will feel inspired too.”
The WE Movement celebrates people coming together. Did you know you can’t buy a ticket to WE Day? People (mostly youth) earn their ticket by taking action on one local or one global cause. WE Day celebrates these changes and encourages more people to join in and participate.
It’s for that reason that Kids in the Capital has decided to become a WE Families Ambassador. What does that mean? It means we have committed to raise kids to care, to be compassionate and to make a difference locally and globally. WE provided us with a kit to get started with activities that are fun, easy and will make a difference.
At home we talk about global issues of inequality and homelessness. We work together to see what we can do to make changes close to us that could affect the world at large. We donate to food banks and volunteer when possible and where needed.
We also make environmental issues a priority through the WE Take Charge campaign by setting our thermostat up two degrees in the summer and down in the winter (and discussing why this matters). We recycle, donate and reuse everything possible and are vigilant of our water usage and make conscious conservation efforts such as using a rain barrel to water flowers in the summer.
There are so many things families can do to bring the WE Movement into their homes and encourage children to learn about the world around them, teach them how their actions impact others, and show them that what they do matters to the world at large. For more information on how you can get your family involved in the WE Movement visit: https://www.we.org/we-at-home/we-families/