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Craig Kielburger

October 27, 2016 by Speakers' Spotlight

Speak of the Week: Craig Kielburger, Co-Founder of “WE”

At Speakers’ Spotlight, we believe that a speech can change the world. Whether Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address or Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream,” the power of the spoken word to unite people around an idea or set of ideas cannot not be understated. When he was only 12 years old, in just three short sentences, Craig Kielburger did just that.

After reading an article about a young Pakistani boy named Iqbal Masih, who was forced into bonded labour in a carpet factory at the age of four, and who later was murdered as a result of speaking out against child labour, Craig went to school that day determined that more children on the other side of the world wouldn’t suffer the same fate as Iqbal’s. Holding up the article in class, Craig said to his schoolmates:

“I need your help.”

“We have to do something.”

“Who will help me?”

Eleven small hands raised up, and with that, Free the Children, and later the “WE” organizations were born.

What began as a collection of “twelve twelve year olds” banding together to stop child labour and slavery has grown into a worldwide organization with programs in Canada, the US, and the UK and  international development projects in Asia, Africa, and Latin America focused on the rights of children and education.

This month, hundreds of thousands of Canadians – young and old – have gathered together in stadiums across the country to celebrate “WE Day” in recognition of youth making a difference in their local and global communities.

With inspirational speakers ranging Craig and his brother and co-founder Marc, to Colonel Chris Hadfield, Margaret Trudeau, Rick Hansen, and Spencer West, young people have been reminded that their voice, and their actions, can make a difference. They’ve been encouraged to dream big; to end the stigma around mental health issues; to advocate for those with disability; and, above all, to understand that human rights should be available to everyone around the world.

For speaking up against injustice and starting a movement that continues to undoubtedly change the world, we chose Craig Kielburger as our Speak of the Week.

Watch the story of Craig’s career above, which includes clips from some of his earliest speeches!