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Simon Jackson

Spotlight On: Simon Jackson, Founder of the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition

If ever there is doubt that one person can make a difference, Simon Jackson—and his incredible story of the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition—puts that doubt to rest. Simon’s quest, at the young age of 13, to save the white Kermode bear gave rise to the world’s first and biggest youth-run environmental movement and the largest land protection measure in North American history. Discussing his personal story, as well as the intricacies of founding a non-profit and navigating both business and politics, Simon inspires audiences to realize the “power of one” to encourage change and challenges citizens to re-think how we tackle complex environmental challenges. Below, Simon tackles an altogether different beast–the Speakers’ Spotlight questionnaire:

What inspired you to want to be a speaker?

Truthfully, I became a speaker by accident. Advocating for the spirit bear’s protection required lots of public speaking. For me, it was a daunting challenge–especially for a shy, nervous 13-year-old. But the more I spoke to audiences of all ages and sizes about an issue I passionately believe in, the more comfortable I became. Today, there are few things I enjoy as much as speaking. I feel continuously honoured that varied audiences invite me to share my story or discuss an idea I’m passionate about. I hope I can continue to have this great opportunity for years to come.

Any advice for aspiring speakers?

The best advice I can offer is be passionate about your subject and have a personal story to help you illustrate your core message. In my opinion, the more you can relate your points to the life of an audience member, the longer your message will resonate.

What do you like to leave audiences with?

I like to challenge the audiences I address. I hope the story I share or message I advocate resonates on a personal level. I want people to re-consider their pre-conceived notions, be they about the environment or how we, as a society, tackle issues that affect our world. Mostly, I want to leave audiences hopeful about our world and what they can do to better it.

How do you prepare before a talk? Any special rituals?

Aside from briefing myself extensively about the audience I’m about to address, I don’t have any”pre-game” rituals. However, as I don’t eat before a speech, I do almost always reward myself with a pepperoni pizza post-speech. Some would say I have a border-line pizza addiction.

Do you have an especially memorable event you can tell us about?

This is going to sound very cliche, but I think every event is memorable in its own way. I can remember every speech I’ve given and most are defined by the personal interactions I’ve had with the audience, be it during the Q&A or when I’m off the stage. I always thoroughly enjoy discussing ideas with the incredible people I’ve been fortunate enough to meet through speaking engagements.

Any funny or embarrassing situations you found yourself in as a speaker?

I’m convinced there is a speech–and a book–in the trials and tribulations of getting to or returning from a speaking engagement. Some of my travel stories are almost too unbelievable to believe. If anyone is looking for some funny stories…

Is there a charitable cause that you feel passionate about? Why?

Obviously, I’m very passionate about the non-profit I founded at 13 years old, the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition, and what we’re doing to save Canada’s endangered white Kermode or spirit bear. But there are many organizations and issues I strongly believe in and I work to support them through board service and personal (and sometimes public) advocacy.

If you had to choose a new career, what would it be?

Photography has always played a central role in my life. And while I do sell some of my images and use other shots as part of some of my speeches, I need to find more time to dedicate to a field that gives me tremendous joy.

Desert island album?

Tough. I love music. I have to have at least one Rolling Stones album, one  album by The National, one by John Denver (don’t laugh)….This is too tough. Can’t I just bring my iPod? It packs lighter, I swear.

Best subject in school?

Social Studies. And probably only Social Studies!!

Last book you read?

The last book I read was The White Lioness by Henning Menkle–a good thriller that highlights some of the horrific racism during the apartheid in South Africa. Next up is the biography of Teddy Roosevelt.

Last film you saw?

Wow. I can’t even remember. That’s embarrassing. I can guarantee it was on a flight!

Celebrity crush?

My fiancee, Jill Cooper. She might not be a household name, but she’s famous to me and the only crush I have.