We Day Seattle started with a phone call.
The caller was Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. On the receiving end was Craig Kielburger, the pepper pot of positivity who planted the seed 18 years ago from which the We Day phenomenon has grown – and on Wednesday reached the United States for the first time at Key Arena.
“How it ended up in Seattle was a phone call – a very-passionate, engaged, very-persuasive phone call,” Kielburger said during one of the few breaks in the day-long event to reward and further inspire students to get involved locally and globally.
“When coach Carroll called, it’s the first time I had heard this man’s voice. And he said, ‘Listen, you’ve got to bring this group in and get a start in Seattle.’ ”
Cracked Carroll, “He didn’t have a choice.”
Their collaborative efforts have proved to be a match made in intensity heaven, or nonstop-intensity nirvana.
“My first impression of my first We Day, it’s been just fun,” Carroll said. “It’s been fun to be part of it. The energy behind this thing – the kids outside the arena even before they opened the door cheering and chanting and going crazy. I can’t imagine that it could be at a better pitch.”
Carroll, the co-chair of We Day Seattle obviously was having a blast. And it’s understandable, because the program for the 15,000 assembled students from the across the state was pulled off with the precision of a 12-play, 95-yard touchdown drive. And that’s not easy for an event that segued seamlessly from political rally to pop concert, dance party to motivational seminar.
The onstage lineup was filled with people the students not only could relate to, but aspire to be. From Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee to NBA legends Magic Johnson and Gary Peyton; Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Tanios Vivani, regional president of Amway, to Martin Luther King III and MC Hammer; actors and activists Mia Farrow and Martin Sheen to Liz Murray, author of “Breaking Night: My Journey from Homeless to Harvard,” and Molly Burke, a visually impaired motivational speaker; to the Seahawks’ foursome of
Macklemore. The Seattle-born hip-hop artist was a surprise, unannounced addition to the lineup and closed the show – after being introduced by Carroll – to the loudest ovation of a day filled with them.
“It seems to be almost too good to be true,” Carroll said. “Where’s the chink in the armor? What’s the problem? It isn’t that way. This is real. It’s happening. And beyond that, it’s free for the schools; it’s free for these kids to get here. It’s not normal. This is a new normal.”
And that’s what this day was all about: Rewarding those new-normal students who had made a difference during the past year, while also supplying the motivation to do even more during the coming year.
“For people reading or checking online (at www.weday.com), if they feel they’ve missed their chance, they haven’t,” Kielburger said. “The whole 'We Act' program continues.”
And each celebrity who took the stage used his own words to celebrate those students and their efforts.
“Seattle is going to be a great city for years to come because of you,” McGinn told the students, who were decked out in a rainbow assortment of We Day t-shirts.
“We are the change,” said Munro Chambers, a cast member of the TeenNick TV show Degrassi.
“Like a football team, you have to come together to do something great,” Carroll offered.
“I am in awe of what you people will be able to do as your go forward tomorrow,” said the even-bubblier-than-usual Balmer, who added that he was “a We Day newbie.”
“People say that patience is a virtue. Forget that. Get things done,” Farrow said.
“I think we all agree that this has been an amazing day,” Hammer said.
“This is truly the start of a movement,” said King, who then proved he really is the son of Martin Luther King Jr. by adding, “Don’t ever let anyone prevent you from achieving your dream.”
“To give back is imperative,” said Macklemore, who took an overnight flight from his tour stop in Arkansas on Tuesday to be part of the festivities.
But it’s all just words without the actions to support it. And that was the true meaning of We Day Seattle – to reward the actions of those students who not only decided to make a change, but then went out and did.
“We Day Seattle, it’s just a start,” Kielburger said. “Yes, it’s a culmination; it’s a celebration. But it’s just a start, again."
What an extraordinary & historic day as we celebrated #WeDay Seattle! Honored to be a part of it all! Truly a day we will never forget!!— Pete Carroll (@PeteCarroll) March 28, 2013