The first speaker of note at We Day Vancouver 2012 was B.C. Premier Christy Clark who stepped onto the stage wearing a bright pink jacket in memory of Amanda Todd, a Port Coquitlam teenager who tragically committed suicide only six days before, largely because of bullying.
Clark said that Todd needed a person to reach out to her and step up against bullying and told the crowd, "Every day, make a commitment-be that person."
Bullying prevention remained an important theme throughout We Day, in an attempt to address an issue that Todd's death has brought to the forefront in recent days.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Holly Branson, Magic Johnson, Demi Lovato and One Republic also appeared at We Day held at Rogers Arena Oct. 18.
The event, organized by Free the Children, brought together 20,000 passionate youth from across the province.
The annual Free the Children event is organized to celebrate the work of students who help others, and to inspire and launch new programs for the coming year. Free the Children is an international organization that was founded in 1995, by then-12-year-old Craig Kielburger to protect the rights and improve the lives of youth in countries around the world through the efforts of youth.
Students earned their place at the event by collectively clocking more than 1.7 million volunteer hours, raising $6 million dollars and donating 400,000 pounds of food across Canada. We Day is also held in eight other locations across Canada.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, introduced by Miss Teen Canada, followed the premier's appearance, saying, "Take good care of each other, take good care of the planet." The event was hosted by Jesse Giddings, a musician, designer and model from Langley, B.C.
Five-time NBA championship winner, Basketball Hall of Fame legend Magic Johnson spoke on raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and bullying.
"Work with everybody, no matter what colour they are, no matter if they look different than you," Johnson told the crowd of screaming youth.
Johnson spoke about his struggle to educate his fellow players about HIV/AIDS, saying that some players refused to play against him following his diagnosis.
Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu (age 81) took the stage to be interviewed by Craig Kielburger, telling the applauding audience, "You are fantastic, and you must know that each and every one of you is special. There are not very many VIPs, but you are all VSPs. You are all very special people."
The first black archbishop of Cape Town talked eloquently about his role in ending apartheid in South Africa. At the end of the interview, the ever-cheerful Tutu's favourite singer, Grammy award winner Angelique Kidjo, was brought on to perform his favourite song, "Malaika." With his arm around her shoulder, he swayed gently to the music. Fittingly, Malaika is the Swahili word for angel.
Twenty-year-old Demi Lovato, a judge on the X Factor and successful musician, performed her hit song "Give Your Heart a Break" to loud screams from the audience.
"I have been through a lot of the same issues that you guys are going through," Lovato told the crowd following a touching video of her experiences dealing with bullying, self-harm and depression.
Craig and Marc Kielburger, brothers and founders of Me to We, a social enterprise created in 2008 that donates half its profits to Free the Children, both spoke at the event, as did motivational speakers Spencer West and Molly Burke, Free the Children's Kenya program director Robin Wiszowaty, Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair and Kenyan Maasai warriors Wilson and Jackson. One Republic, Tyler Shaw, My Name is Kay, Shawn Desman and Cody Simpson also performed at the event. Dr. Holly Branson, daughter of Sir Richard Branson, was at the event to announce that We Day London will be launching next year, as will We Day Seattle. A major drive for the coming year, We Create Change, which has students collect pennies to raise money for clean water for children in developing countries, was launched at the event.
Despite an awkward opening in which students were asked to cheer for acts that weren't present for a movie montage of We Day, and an anti-bullying theme that at times felt slightly tacked-on, it was an inspiring event from the Free the Children Foundation, and a successful one. With no empty seats in the house, the students present were evidently excited to be there, rewarding all acts with deafening cheers. As the crowds filed out of the stadium, students were already planning next year's fundraisers.