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Vancouver, Tuesday, September 29, 2009
How are you?
Are you ready to celebrate?
Craig and Marc had already spoken to me at great length about you.
But nothing prepared me for all this energy rocking the stadium this morning!
Let me say how excited I am to be with you to open Vancouver We Day!
I feel that the timing is perfect, given this city is currently hosting His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, other Noble Peace Prize winners and a constellation of international change agents for a much-needed dialogue on peace-building.
I understand that some of these global leaders are here with us today, as we prepare to embark on an exciting day of activities to celebrate what you are doing to make a difference.
Dear friends, as I look across the stadium, all I see are thousands of eyes glowing with the conviction that we all have the power to change the course of the world.
And this is so crucial.
Because your presence—all sixteen thousand of you—sends a powerful message of solidarity at home and to the rest of the world.
It says that the youth of Canada are not caught up in the “everyone for himself or for his clan” mentality.
That the youth of Canada are not indifferent to the plight of the disenfranchised, at home and abroad.
That the youth of Canada are not ignorant about local and global issues.
Not only do young Canadians care, but young Canadians want to make a difference, here and now.
As you all know, the stakes are high.
Every day, hundreds of children die of malnutrition around the world.
Every hour, thousands of children are forced to work in some of the most atrocious labour conditions imaginable.
Every minute, millions of children are subjected to the vilest forms of physical and sexual abuse.
Do we want a world in which the power of the mighty tramples on the rights of the vulnerable?
Do we want a world in which the greed of the few plunders the resources of the many?
Do we want a world in which a sense of powerless overwhelms people’s willingness to work for positive change?
We want a better world! Let’s say it together.
To cite the wise words of the great civil rights leader, the late Reverend Martin Luther King junior, we want a world in which we can all, “sit down together at the table of brotherhood,” and sisterhood I would add.
And that is why you have convened today.
By the “10 by 10” action pledges you will be making today, you will not only acknowledge your responsibility to humanity, but you will prove yourselves capable of transforming your words into action, action that can ultimately help fulfill your dream, which is really our dream, of a better world.
Every gesture counts.
Your actions have the potential to make a tremendous difference in the lives of people living in some of the most atrocious circumstances.
That is why it always upsets me to hear people say, “Young people are the leaders of the future.”
“Young people don’t care”—as if you cannot and will not have an impact today.
As I have travelled across Canada and around the world as 27th governor general of Canada, I have come across thousands of young people who like you are overcoming the odds to change their communities.
Using the arts, particularly the urban arts, using sports, and new information technologies, they are transforming spaces, neighbourhoods, rural and aboriginal communities where alienation, violence and exclusion once reigned into places where solidarity, peace and inclusion now triumph.
Nonetheless, too many people have yet to be convinced that your ideas count, that your initiatives are innovative, that you are a part of the solution, and that the world has a moral obligation to make sure your voices are heard. Craig and Mark Kielberger are perfect examples of what youth can do.
And so, what I will do today is make my own action pledge.
I pledge to spread your message of peace and solidarity wherever I go.
Whether it is in the small hamlets of the Canadian Arctic or in the big cities of the Canadian South, I will spread your message of hope.
Whether it is in large metropolises of the Global south or in the small towns of the Global North, I will spread your message of hope.
Whether it is in the royal courts of kings and queens or in the company of presidents or prime ministers, I will spread your message of hope.
Because I believe in you.
By your devotion and your actions, you are showing the world how to move from a me-centered life philosophy to one which places humanity at the heart of what it means to make a difference on a local and a global scale.
This is important because the international community is striving to build a new roadmap for peace, solidarity, and prosperity.
The more voices like yours unite at home and around the world for positive change, the more our collective dream for global transformation becomes within our reach.
So dear friends, I am persuaded you are everything Canada and the world need and more: dedicated, committed, and selfless people.
Just standing up here, I can feel your halo, halo, halo.
I can feel your halo.
Keep up the great work!
And have a happy We Day!