“We Day” kicked off its first California event on March 26 with 16,000 students and teachers from over 400 schools gathering together in the Oracle Arena. “We Day” was organized by the Free the Children charity, an international organization helping kids become involved in global projects that aid developing countries. Similarly, the one-day event was created to empower the youth to take on local and global issues. People can only attend through following “We Act,” a yearlong program that provides the resources for students, teachers and parents to engage in one local and global action.
The event, now in its seventh year, made its Oakland debut with a grand spectacle of motivational speakers, celebrities and an energized crowd that rivaled the exciting aura of a Warriors home game. After escaping the light showers and the crowded BART trains of a dreary morning, children, teachers and parents were greeted by a mass of volunteers and given colorful t-shirts and light-up bracelets to wear during the event.
Guest speakers and performances included Martin Sheen, Orlando Bloom, Big Sean and J. Cole. These brief segments— full of video montages, anecdotes about philanthropic work and repetitive aphorisms— gave the event a slideshow quality to capture the short, social media-obsessed attention spans of this generation’s youth.
Actress and singer Selena Gomez came on stage sporting a dazzling red Emporio Armani suit. In an attempt to downplay her fame after the thunderous cheering from her fans, she prefaced her speech saying, “I am not an activist. I haven’t changed the world or led a campaign.” Gomez addressed her time in rehab telling the crowd, “I once lost sight of who I was,” hoping to show kids the importance of being themselves and overcoming life’s obstacles.
Actor Seth Rogen, with his laid back demeanor and self-effacing humor, explained his recent involvement in charity influenced by his life-changing experience after learning his wife’s mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. In a recent video that went viral, Rogan appeared in front of the Senate to give his opening statements about the inadequate research funding for Alzheimer’s disease and lack of public awareness about the expensive and deadly nature of the disease.
Using his past experiences to create the “Hilarity for Charity” event that benefits Alzheimer’s Association, Rogan implored young people to discover their passions and utilize it for a cause they deeply care about. “If you wanted, you could find a way to make playing Grand Theft Auto benefit a charity,” Rogan joked to the audience.
The founders of “We Day” and “Free the Children” charity organization, Craig and Marc Kielburger have had success with their charity taking advantage of social media with the “1 Like = $1” Facebook campaign. The Kielburger brothers spoke to the audience about their unique story creating the organization when they were only 12-years-old with the help of their classmates. Invoking their precocious participation in philanthropy, they hope to use these events and programs as catalysts to galvanize a whole generation of children to become actively interested in diverse array of issues that range from poverty to education, discrimination and more. With “We Day” spreading across the United States and Canada and launching in London, the brothers have created a blueprint for providing kids the resources to have a spark of commitment and optimism that will hopefully continue to burn in the future.
Contact Fan Huang at [email protected].