A day to celebrate 13,000 young people: WE Day UK 2020
Another year, another brilliant WE Day UK! The 2020 event was as exciting as ever, with the SSE Arena in Wembley taken over by 13,000 superhero students and some of the most inspiring people around – including Idris Elba, Jamie Oliver, Adwoa Aboah, Gwendoline Christie, Lewis Hamilton and many incredible young activists and change-makers from across the UK.
As co-chair of WE Day UK, it felt great in our seventh year to get back on the WE Day stage and take on the role as a presenter for the very first time. Laura Whitmore makes it look easy! I also jumped at the chance to talk about how to do good on a global scale.
For background, WE Day is an annual event by the WE Movement that celebrates young people and teachers who are making a difference on both a local and a global scale. I got to know Craig and Marc Kielburger, the founders of WE Charity, about a decade ago when they invited me on a trip to the Masai Mara to launch theircharity partnership with Virgin Atlantic. I’m proud to say the partnership is still going strong today! On the trip Marc asked me to give a speech at WE Day Vancouver, Not even knowing what it was, I said yes immediately – saying yes to things before completely knowing what we've signed up to definitely runs in the genes! It wasn’t until I got there that I realised I would be speaking in front of 20,000 young people! It was an experience I'll never forget.
I wanted to bottle up the feeling of hope for a better future and bring it home to the UK - after all, our young people should be celebrated too. So that’s exactly what I did and, with the help of my wonderful co-chair Lord Rumi Verjee, we held our first ever WE Day UK at Wembley!
This year, WE DAY was all about embracing our inner superhero to drive positive change. We were tasked with six different missions, and I was the proud host of Mission Five: We Are Global.
I started by sharing the following with our 13,000 WE Dayers: “Being globally minded means making the world smaller through shared passions. From rallying against poverty to advocating for immigration rights, we can make a difference together. It begins with uniting the people. Expanding our efforts across the globe and using the lessons we’ve learned at home to help us tackle today’s obstacles and create a better tomorrow. Although we may be far apart, we all have the same goal: to make an impact.”
Next up, it was an honour to be joined by Yusra Mardini and hear her very powerful story. Yusra is a young athlete who fled thousands of miles to safety when an escalating war forced her from her home in Syria. With immense courage and determination to take control of her life, Yusra made it to Germany and became a member of the first ever Refugee Olympic Team. Yusra is on a mission to change the perception of refugees and shared a powerful message of hope, determination and courage to remind us that each and every one of us is capable of achieving great things.
Ahead of International Women’s Day on Sunday, it was a pleasure to welcome Leona Lewis, Julia Gillard and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau on stage for a discussion on educating and empowering girls and women,. These two powerful women are dedicating their careers to advancing women’s rights. As Julia put it, “when you educate a girl, you empower a whole community.” Sophie added: “We need to redefine femininity and masculinity so we simply define who we are.” It was to hear so much passion and wisdom in equal measure.
Things then got pretty lively as we welcomed Teen Titans from Cartoon Network to the stage and struck our favourite superhero poses - I opted for Wonder Woman! I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as I saw 13,000 super strong superheroes in the crowd, posing right back at me.
I’m so proud of WE Day UK and of the, almost 100,000 young people, who have travelled the road to Wembley, in the last seven years. WE Day gives us all a chance to celebrate all these amazing young superheros: for their citizenship, belief in the power of change and their passion that, in the future, they will eradicate some of the most pressing issues facing our planet. I’ll end by quoting my WE Day UK superhero of choice:
"No matter how small an act of kindness or generosity or simple positivity you put out into the world, it will make a difference." - Wonder Woman