Davis Guggenheim, the speaker on stage here, was discussing his latest documentary film “Waiting for ‘Superman'” with 18000 high school students. That’s a pretty big number of people. I recently watched this film and my immediate reaction, as a Canadian teacher, was one of revulsion and disappointment. I see what’s happening to children, to young people whose future is outside of their control and jeopardized by adults – teachers, politicians, administrators, economists – who are thinking of themselves instead of those they are charged to protect, teach and help and it makes me feel queasy. Listening to Guggenheim last October made me feel at least somewhat encouraged that there are people who are seeing the horrors of the education system.
While visiting Vancouver for We Day, Guggenheim reminded the students that the reason they were there was because of good teachers and that good teachers would make the difference in the lives of students who would change the world. As a teacher in attendance, it felt pretty good. For a brief moment, me and the teachers in attendance were given an ovation that few of us will hear in our lives. 18000 people clapping, cheering for the good we’re doing is pretty amazing. Thanks, Mr. Guggenheim.
Al Gore, during his We Day speech, told the 18000 students in attendance that they are not “our future”; rather, they are our present. He exhorted them to think of themselves as the people who would solve the world’s problems and to start now. He then made an analogy that I’d never known. When the Apollo program put a Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon in 1969, the average age of the people in NASA’s mission control was 26. This means that when JFK made the speech in 1961 that the USA would put a man on the moon within the decade, the average age of those same mission controllers was 18. They heard the challenge in 1961 and eight years later they provided the response. We have to stop thinking of our students as the future and start thinking of them as our present. Thanks, Al Gore, for putting things in perspective.
Yesterday saw “We Day” visit Vancouver. The photo above is of the giant screens in the center of Rogers Arena in Vancouver. I took twenty-nine students to We Day and the experience was amazing. If you’ve never heard of We Day, here’s the event in a nutshell: Al Gore, Martin Sheen, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jim Berk, Ethan Zohn, Robin Wiszowaty and others joined with recording artists Colbie Caillat, Barenaked Ladies and Hedley to bring a challenge to 18000 young leaders to make the world a better place. The vision for all of this was first articulated by Craig Kielburger, the founder of Free the Children, and his brother Marc. They envisioned harnessing the energy and power of youth to build schools in developing countries, to provide healthcare and clean water and alternative income sources for people who really need it. We Day is the big kick-off for a year of events, fundraising, and awareness campaigns that the 18000 students will be working on in their own schools for the remainder of the year.
It was inspirational and uplifting, with messages ranging from having the power to change the environment (Gore) to finding something worth fighting for (Sheen), everybody is somebody (Jackson) to teachers are important (Berk). Incredible day all around.
If this sounds interesting, go to Facebook and “Like” We Day. Every “Like” equals a dollar for Free the Children; in other words, one million “likes” equals a million dollars to help villages and their children all around the world.
This photo is posted here as part of the Photo Friday weekly challenge: Warped.