Pete Carroll meets his passionate, enthusiastic match

Posted Oct 2, 2012

At a rousing, raucous assembly at Federal Way High School on Tuesday morning, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll set the stage for Craig Kielburger to announce We Day Seattle on March 27 at Key Arena.

FEDERAL WAY – Pete Carroll hasn’t met so much his match, as another person who seems to be a perfect match for the passion and energy that are among the trademark traits of the Seahawks’ coach.

That would be Craig Kielburger, a 29-year-old Canadian bolt of infectious enthusiasm who is the driving force behind We Day and Free The Children. He and Carroll shared an assembly at Federal Way High School on Tuesday morning – along with Microsoft executive Brad Smith, U.S. freestyle skier Patrick Deneen of Cle Elum, former Congolese child solider Michael Chikwanine and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, among others – to announce the first We Day celebration to be held in the United States.

The event will be held March 27, 2013, at Key Arena. It will feature former Soviet Union president and Noble Peace prize winner Mikhail Gorbachev, and be patterned after the hugely successful We Day events that have been held in Canada and involved 1.7 million students and attracted 2.4 million followers on Facebook.

Actually, it was Carroll who set the stage for Kielburger to take the assembly by storm.

“I’m so honored to be associated with this group, Free The Children, and Craig Keilburger and his brother, Mark, and all the wonderful people that support the organization,” Carroll told the assembled students and dignitaries. “Because of what they stand for, and who they are, and what they believe in.

“And what they truly believe in, in my mind, is you. They believe in the power of kids making a difference. They understand how much you have to offer the world and they want to give you the opportunity to reach and do the marvelous things that you can do.”

Carroll left everyone with this: “Dream huge, and see how far we can take this.”

Why Seattle for the inaugural event in the United States?

“Coach Carroll, absolutely,” Kielburger said after the standing-room-only assembly in the Eagles’ gymnasium. “A lot of cities have invited us. A lot of school boards have invited us. But it takes three magic things to really make this happen. It takes the school boards to say, ‘We want this.’ Coach got on the phone, called the school boards and said, ‘Come out to practice. Come on out for a great time, but let’s have a meaningful conversation.’

“The second thing we need: Hometown heroes. Sports is a great way to get kids excited, get them passionate. You saw it today, with Richard sharing his story. From Compton (Calif.) to the Seahawks. From Compton to Stanford. How often does that happen? You need that second component. You need the heroes. You need local organizations.

“And last, you need the amplification. We had FOX (KCPQ/channel 13), we had a lot of great news outlets here. In Canada, one in six Canadians watch We Day when it’s broadcast on television. This is not just a gathering that fills a stadium; it’s a gathering that rocks a country.” 

Carroll is the chairman of We Day Seattle, while Microsoft is a co-sponsor along with Kielburger’s Free The Children international charity and educational program.

“It is the first in the United States,” Smith said of We Day Seattle. “To have it in Western Washington is just great news for our whole region. Our involvement in part came from the new focus we’re bringing to youth. We’re really focusing our citizenship and our philanthropic work on youth.

“And we were really impressed with what Free The Children had accomplished in Canada. But it was also the opportunity to help then do something new by coming to the United States. So it’s not too often you get to place a big bet on somebody who’s really shown that they can produce and do something completely new in your own backyard.”

Just don’t try buying a ticket for We Day Seattle. You have to earn your admission with one local action and one global action.

“It doesn’t matter the cause. It doesn’t matter the charity,” Kielburger said. “But you’ve got to make the difference. So for students, we will help you. We’ll help you find that local and global action. We’ll put you in touch with organizations. We’ll make sure that we give you mentor support. A prepackaged campaign. Curricular resources every week. What’s happening in the world, how teachers can teach about it. Summer leadership camps. International service trips. Everything you can imagine.”

Kielburger calls it a “one-stop shop” to help make anyone who decides he or she wants to make a difference as “an active local and global citizen.”

As he was running through the above list of services, Kielburger was rising up on his toes and gesturing wildly with his arms. And this was after he had made an even more impassioned presentation to the students during the assembly.

The acorn from which this mighty oak of an idea grew came when Kielburger was a 12-year-old seventh-grader living north of Toronto. He saw an article in the newspaper about the life and death of a young child in Pakistan and asked his parents – both teachers – and teachers how he could make a difference.

“Initially, so many people said, ‘No.’ We wanted to prove them wrong,” said Kielburger, who could have been mistaken for a student that wandered out of the senior section in his “Me (heart) We” T-shirt and jeans.

“They said, ‘You’re too young. You can’t change things. You’ve got to wait. You’re naïve dreamers. Idealistics.’ We picked up those words and ran with pride. We said, ‘Yeah, we’re idealistic. We are shamelessly idealistic, in fact.”

And what he’s doing now? “It’s making it easier for the next 12-year old,” he said, smiling. 

“Never would we have imagined it would have started with my seventh-grade class to grow to where it is today.”

Which was, sharing an assembly stage with Carroll and making football analogies.

“I love it,” Keilburger said of the response of the students to his message and those of the other speakers. “The ‘We’re In,’ the ‘We Dey’ chanting. You know what it reminds me of? The Seahawks’ players. How they just have to tap the ‘I’m In’ (sign) before they run out there (to practice).

“These students, they were on their feet, they were tapping it, they were ready to go. They’re ‘In’ for service, for volunteerism, for transforming the city and the state.”