NARRATOR: Craig and Marc Kielburger are Canadian activists, social entrepreneurs, and co-founders of a group called Free The Children, an international charity and youth movement based on the concept of children helping children. Founded in 1995, Free The Children has grown to be the world's largest international network of children helping children through education, with more than one million young people engaged in its innovative education and development programs in 45 countries.
Since 2007, the Kielburger brothers have held an annual youth empowerment event called WE Day, which features speeches and performances from global leaders, social activists, and public figures. They aim to free children from poverty and exploitation, and free young people from the notion that they are powerless to effect positive change in the world. Together, the Kielburgers deliver a practical and inspirational social responsibility message to empower people to achieve their fullest potential as agents of change.
CRAIG KIELBURGER: When I was a kid, when I was 12 years old, one day reaching for the comics, I saw an article about a child slave who was four years old when his family was so poor they sold him into slavery in Pakistan. They sold him for the equivalent of less than $16. He worked weaving carpets. He escaped at the age of 10. He spoke out, returned to Pakistan, and when he was 12, he was shot dead. And I was that same age. I looked at my life, I looked at his life. I tore it from the newspaper. I brought it to my class. I said, I need your help.
You know, I remember when we first started, we had this dream to build one school overseas, and people said to us, oh, you know, kids go to school. Kids can't build schools. And when we built the first school, we said, well, after that, we want to build 10. And they said, slow down. Slow down. You know, young people, don't dream too big. You'll be disappointed. You know, don't be too idealistic. Don't be naive.
And after we built 10 schools, we said, we want to build 100 schools. And they said, whoa. At this point, I think we were, like, in ninth grade. They said no, no, no, no. That's never going to happen. Like, put the brakes on. You guys are idealistic. We said, no, no, no, no. We're shamelessly idealistic.
MARC KIELBURGER: I remember 17 years ago, when we started Free The Children, the two uncoolest things you could do is, number one, change the world. Number two, take part in glee clubs.
17 years later, two coolest things you could do is change the world and take part in glee clubs. It's amazing to see these social trends change.
CRAIG KIELBURGER: And [INAUDIBLE], Walden's just ahead of its time. This is what appeals to the new generation of young people. Your sons, your daughters, your nieces, your nephews. And the potential to be that spark, to light that change, to go back to your companies, communities, religious groups, and families is extraordinary.
You know, I know so often we think of social change as being something maybe limited to certain faculties. You study nursing, you study medicine or education. But no, no, no, no. We've very quickly come to realize that social change is something that can go within all faculties.
So that's what a new generation cares about. That's the product differentiation. That's how to recruit and retain those young, passionate workers who are looking more than just a paycheck, who are looking for meaning. That's how you stand above the fray. That's where great business opportunities of the future, and I believe that's also where the great charitable opportunity of the future is, to see those two worlds come together.
And I share this because that message, the founding value that 40 years ago this institution was founded on, when first in Florida, then spreading across America and around the world is social change. And that is something not limited just to some faculties, but can reach through any and every faculty. Something that can be carried home to any and every institution where you work to any and every community.
So when we talk about spark plus gift equals better world, what are we talking about? This is the dream. And I know it might seem audacious, but this is a university. This is a place of higher purpose. You know, this is the dream that millions around the world of young people need to set themselves to, but I believe they need to be led by leaders, by teachers, by civil society leaders, by those who lead businesses, by those who graduate from this institution. And imagine the day that that's the headline.
MARC KIELBURGER: You've been given a great gift, a great gift of education. You know that. You've worked tremendously hard to make that work, and I'd like to humbly thank you and applaud you for that. But the point is this. That gift has been bestowed. The legacy question now is in front of you. Many of you probably have already answered that question, but for those of you who have not answered that question, that is the question to now ponder on your way home.
You know that gift plus issue equals social change. You need to find your spark. You need to make change in the world. Cool. You need to do all these things. But it's not me saying it. It's not Craig saying it. It's not your university saying it. It has to be you saying it, and you have to believe in it. Fundamentally believe in it by determination, focus, and more importantly, courage.
CRAIG KIELBURGER: You probably have those moments that we have, those moments when you ask, does it make a difference? Those moments when you say, I'm only one person. Those moments of self-doubt.
Well, in those moments, we want to leave with you these final words. To thank you, to congratulate you, and all that you've already accomplished to be here today. But most of all, to applaud you for the small things with great love that you will do to change this world. Thank you.