Selena Gomez. Demi Lovato. Joe Jonas. Rowan Blanchard. Sabrina Carpenter. Charlize Theron. The stars of New Girl. And even the Muppets. All of the above took the stage at the Forum in front of 16,000 students to celebrate the power of coming together and changing the world.
You can’t buy a ticket to WE Day. Sponsored by Free the Children, WE Day events are completely free for those who’ve earned their way through actions on both local and global causes. This year alone, over 250,000 young people will come together in 14 stadium gatherings in the world.
International activist and WE Day founder Craig Kielburger began Free The Children when he was only twelve years old.
“When we started this organization 21 years ago, it was the most uncool thing in the world ot make a difference. We were practically shoved into the waters,” said Kielburger. “We started this with twelve 12-year-olds. Now [there are] 16,000 youth in Los Angeles. Now this is being cut into a national broadcast. Now incredible ambassadors are here inspiring the youth. So often people see youth as problems to be solved, but in reality they are the problem-solvers.”
Over 550 WE Schools were present to see the first WE Day to take place in California. The show consisted of performances, motivational speakers, and the young heroes of our generation.
Selena Gomez opened up the show with “Kill Em With Kindness” to the crowd’s frenzied cheering. WE Day veteran Demi Lovato took the stage with the heart-wrenching “Stone Cold,” shocking the audience into standing ovations.
Rowan Blanchard delivered a speech that struck a cord with many in the audience, speaking about girl power, growing up feeling alone, and finding your voice. “The right to take up space unapologetically belongs to us,” declared the Girl Meets World star.
Actor and comedian Seth Rogen and his wife Lauren Miller spoke about removing the stigma surrounding Alzheimer’s, as Miller’s mother was diagnosed with an early onset. This inspired the couple to create Hilarity for Charity, a one-of-a-kind event to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s.
“The situation was so dire it caused me, a man-child, to start a whole organization,” joked Rogen.
Then, Academy Award winner Charlize Theron stepped up to tell her life story. She grew up in South Africa during a time when her birthplace was hit the hardest by HIV and AIDs. She promoted her Africa Outreach Project and #genendit, believing that our generation will be the one to put an end to AIDs by starting conversations, educating others, and fighting stigma with compassion.
In the press conference, she spoke about worrying so much about unnecessary things when she was younger, and wished she could tell her 18-year-old self to “chill out.”
“When I was younger, and I think this is common—I hear a lot of young people talk about this—I think there is a sense of urgency, which is great. And if you can focus it towards something positive it is unbelievably powerful. But I also worried about so much. And I think I would have told myself to… try to keep perspective,” said Theron. “I would say to my young self just to stay focused, feel what drives you, feel what makes you passionate. Feel what is the thing that makes you get out of bed in the morning and do it. Do that with all of your heart and all of your love.”
With kids like 11-year-old Mikaila Ulmer, founder of BeeSweet Lemonade, and power duo Corinne Hindes and Katrine Kirsebom who created Warm Winters to better the lives of the homeless, the future is looking incredibly bright. The latter two were excited to walk the stage at WE Day and see some of their favorite celebrity role models.
“Demi Lovato has always been a huge inspiration to me. I had a lot of personal struggles with mental illnesses and eating disorders but she’s been a really big inspiration when it comes to getting me towards recovery. I really love her,” said Hindes.
“Amandla Stenberg. She vouches for women’s rights and raises awareness for people of color. I think it’s really important for me to learn about issues she feels are important to kids my age,” said Kirsebom.
The Co-Founder of WE Day could not be happier with students’ reactions to seeing their idols perform.
“We don’t often share the positive stories, and these young people are so inspiring, so today is like the Super Bowl of social change and the Academy Awards of making a difference,” said Kielburger. “We want to celebrate kids for the good they do, so it is truly a dream come true today.”
WE Day airs commercial-free on ABC, Sunday, August 28, 2016 at 7pm ET/6pm CT.