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Review of We Day & Video of ‘S.O.S’ Performance

The sound of young people screaming at the Air Canada Centre on Monday was so loud, you’d have sworn the Jonas Brothers were in town.

Well, that’s actually not too far off.

As part of Free the Children’s third annual We Day in Toronto, the pop trio took the stage for a surprise performance, only increasing the already deafening cheers from 16,000 student leaders all intent on changing the world.

“You guys are doing a great job! Keep it up!” the Brothers yelled out to the crowd after playing their hit songs “S.O.S.” and “Burn it Up.”

“I was, like, dying. I’m their biggest fan!” said Marina Mavridis, from the Study School in Montreal, who was singing along and snapping pictures from the audience. “It’s amazing. It’s one of the best days of my life.”

“They told us there was going to be a special guest but we had no clue it was going to be the Jonas Brothers – they’re huge!” said fellow student Emily Smith.

Along with the Jonas Brothers, the “rock concert for social change,” welcomed everyone from MTV’s Jessi Cruickshank and musicians Hedley to former Prime Minister Paul Martin and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel.

Wiesel, a political activist, teacher and author, shared his story of how he was taken to a Nazi camp to die during the Holocaust at the age of 15 but managed to survive. He told the students that indifference cannot be an option and encouraged them to “think higher and feel deeper.”

“I want you to remember these moments that we stand together today as moments of possible and necessary joy,” he said.

The event, which kicked off in Vancouver last Tuesday, marks the beginning of a year-long initiative for schools across the country to help change the world. Since We Day’s inception in 2007, more than $5 million has been raised for Free the Children’s Adopt a Village program, resulting in 150 schools being built and 30 clean water projects being implemented.

“You have stood up, you have proved change is possible,” Craig Kielburger told the crowd.

“The true heroes are you,” added his brother Marc.

Hosted by etalk’s Ben Mulroney and Tanya Kim, We Day has doubled in size since last year, with 32,000 young leaders in attendance between the two events. A third We Day is also set to take place in Hamilton on Nov. 5th.

Craig and Marc Kielburger – ‘rockstars’ for change

When Marc and Craig Kielburger took the stage at We Day, the cheers were almost as loud for them as they were for the Jonas Brothers.

But the Free the Children co-founders, who will be torchbearers at the 2010 Olympics, were quick to downplay the comparison of them being like “rockstars.”

“We share with our team and we truly believe it’s not about us, it’s about the issues and we share that with all the young people,” said Marc. “We’re just happy that the young people feel that it’s really cool to get socially engaged and what we’re fighting most of all is we’re fighting apathy.”

“’Every day actions’ is our message and people respond to that message because they’re really searching to bring about a positive change in this world,” adds Craig.

Former Prime Minister Paul Martin says young people are more aware than they’ve ever been.

“I can go into a university or high school and say I’m going to speak to you about anything and within five minutes we’re into the third world, we’re on the environment and we’re on international affairs. I think there’s a huge awakening in Canada and obviously I think both Craig and Marc have had a fair amount to do with that,” said Martin.

Author and environmental activist Robert Kennedy Jr. agreed that the work the organization has done is inspiring.

“This whole organization is kind of mind-blowing … what kids have done to organize themselves and really make a huge difference.”

Craig said young people have always been at the forefront of social movements and Free the Children gives them an opportunity to do something tangible.

“Young people, especially today, are more aware, more informed and more frustrated than another generation because they’re looking for that way to get involved and We Day gives them an avenue,” said Craig.

Craig said young people do want to change the world and it’s a myth that the generation only wants to hang out at malls or go to rock concerts.

“This is a rock concert but it’s a rock concert to change the world,” he said.

For students from Monsignor Percy Johnson High School in Toronto, they agree that changing the world is “cool.” Their school is currently raising funds to build a well and a school in Ecuador.

“Craig Kielburger, he was only twelve-years-old when he started this. We’re 16 years old, we’re all in high school. I think we can make a big difference,” said Hilda Adjei-Addo.

“It makes me want to do more things in our community to help other schools in different parts of the world. I think young people don’t realize other parts of the world aren’t as fortunate as us and if they come to this they’ll be more inspired to do stuff,” said Megan Atkinson.

Musicians, ‘Canada’s Favourite Dancer’ become role models at We Day

Pop musician Justin Bieber knew as soon as he heard about We Day that he wanted to be part of it.

“This whole organization has been amazing,” said Bieber, backstage at We Day.

This Stratford, Ont.-native, who is set to release his much buzzed debut album Nov. 17, brought the crowd to their feet early in the day with an acoustic performance of his hit song, “One Time.”

He hopes that young people will be inspired to make a difference in the world when they see others, like himself, trying to enact change.

“If someone their age is doing it, it just encourages them. They’re like, ‘Oh yeah I can do this, too,” said Bieber.

For Nico Archambault, Canada’s first Favourite Dancer, he knows he’s gained a loyal following from his time on “So You Think You Can Dance Canada” and hopes he can put that influence to good use.

“When I was younger, as a young dancer and as a young person, there were a lot of people who really helped me or inspired me and because of those influences and inspiring people … I am where I am right now and I think it’s really important to now return it to young people,” said Archambault.

This year’s We Day also kicked off Free the Children’s 10 by 10 initiative – a year-long campaign that encourages young people to commit to 10 world-changing activities in their community. It also has a global component, with a goal to raise enough money to develop 10 communities overseas through Free the Children’s Adopt a Village model.

We Day will expand to Montreal in 2010 and has plans to go international by 2012.

Other highlights included appearances by the cast of “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” ”So You Think You Can Dance Canada’s” Top 8, a rousing address by community activist and Toronto Argonauts CEO Michael “Pinball” Clemons, and a performance by Hedley.

Lead singer Jacob Hoggard, who has recently become involved with Free the Children, says it’s inspiring to see more and more young people wanting to make a difference.

“These kids have so much more of an opportunity to affect change, locally and globally, just with the amount of media that they have surrounding them and the attention they’re getting. When we were growing up we just didn’t have the same sort of resources so that’s kind of the main message we’re trying to get across and that’s the most inspiring part for us, seeing them so active at a young age,” said Hoggard.

Hedley closed the show with new songs “Cha-Ching” and “Amazing,” as well as fan favourite “Never Too Late.”

“I know everyone’s been telling you to ‘be the change’ but I’ve got news for you guys. You are the change!” Jacob told the enthusiastic crowd, as We Day officially came to an end.

A two-hour television special featuring highlights from Vancouver and Toronto called, “CTV Presents: We Day 2009,” will air Saturday, Oct. 10 at 7 pm ET.



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