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Originally published March 21, 2014 at 8:06 PM | Page modified March 21, 2014 at 8:47 PM

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We Day event encourages youth to make a difference in the world

Thousands of students packed the KeyArena on Friday to listen to inspirational speeches and performances at Seattle’s second-ever We Day celebration.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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The enthusiastic screams of thousands of students reverberated through KeyArena Friday during the presentation of inspirational speeches and performances at Seattle’s second-ever We Day celebration.

The event, designed to inspire children and teens to make a difference, is an effort of Free The Children, an international charity. The first-ever We Day in the United States was in Seattle last year.

In order to be at We Day, the students had to commit to work for local and global issues.

Speakers ranged from Seattle Seahawks players to the eldest son of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Performers included rapper Flo Rida, Australian singer Cody Simpson and The Connection, a hip-hop dance group.

Martin Luther King III was the first speaker. He told the crowd: “You as young women and men can change the world.”

Later, when Seahawks coach Pete Carroll graced the stage, he asked whether anyone was at the Seahawks Super Bowl victory parade last month.

“If you need a note, I’ll write it for ya,” he quipped — a nod to those who skipped school to see the victors.

Craig Kielburger, co-founder of Free The Children, told reporters that Carroll was the person “who dreamt up the idea to bring We Day to Washington.”

Thousands of students screamed both times that four Seahawks players — Russell Wilson, Derrick Coleman, Bobby Wagner and Jermaine Kearse — hit the stage, once with the Vince Lombardi Super Bowl trophy in hand.

Asked in an interview what advice he would give to kids who want to change their communities, Wilson said, “Be bold. That means a lot of different things, but know what you stand for, be bold and go get it.”

Spencer West, who lost both legs at age 5, but who nonetheless was able to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, shared a few keys to success:

“One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned, in particular, is the importance of having a team and how essential that is to any journey for changing the world,” he said.

Another lesson, West said, was figuring out why you are working on an issue, and why that issue is important to you.

“Getting involved simply because it’s the right thing to do isn’t enough,” he said. “You have to have the why.”

Sixteen-year-old Indira Rayala, a student at Henry M. Jackson High School in Mill Creek, is treasurer for a club called Literacy for Love, which aims to spread literacy on a local and global scale by collecting and donating books.

“There’s gonna be kids who will have their own books now because of what we did,” Rayala said.

Material from The Seattle Times archives was used in this report.

Safiya Merchant: 206-464-2299 or smerchant@seattletimes.com



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