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Star Power: How Cody Simpson Wants to Be Remembered

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A six-pack of questions for celebs making a difference.

Craig and Marc Kielburger, founders of Free The Children and Me to We, check in with some of their favourite actors, singers and activists to find out how they are changing the world.

Cody Simpson is not your stereotypical teen star -- self-entitled or shrouded in scandal. Cody is thoughtful and genuine. He thanks us for this interview, and for the opportunity to come to We Day Vancouver, where we caught up with him. Good manners run in the family -- his Dad also thanks us. Even after his rise to super pop stardom, 3.4 million Twitter followers and a sold-out "Welcome to Paradise" headline tour, Cody still travels with his Dad -- he is, after all, just 15 years old.

Hailing from Queensland, Australia, and now based in L.A., it seems Cody can't shake the beach; he's sporting a tank top despite the Vancouver rain and the October chill. It seems he's not about to sacrifice his own style for an invented image (or, like most teens, to dress practically for the weather).

Cody co-writes much of his own music, including his hit song "Wish U Were Here," which he's just finished singing to an audience of 18,000 young volunteers, who were packed into Rogers Arena for Free The Children's youth empowerment event two weeks ago. We hung out with Cody backstage and talked about bullying, the global clean water crisis and his teenage legacy.

Wish you'd been there.

On any given day, we know that girls' education, world hunger and global warming are some of the social issues facing our world. What's the biggest issue to you?

First, I've been involved in a lot of anti-bullying campaigns. That's something that's close to my heart and has been for a while, so I've been an ambassador for that.

I grew up in a regular school back home [in Australia]. And it's something I experience every day online. As a public figure, I do get a lot of bullying online. I've [also] been in the school yard seeing friends of mine and students be bullied. So I wanted to make a difference.

But globally, I believe that one of the biggest issues right now is [a lack of] clean drinking water. It's so preventable and can be fixed fairly easily in the not too distant future. It breaks my heart to think that millions of kids die annually from something so preventable [like water borne illness or dehydration].

You've got legions of fans who look to you as a role model, including 3.4 million Twitter followers; who is your hero?

My hero is first of all my Dad. He's probably the nicest guy you'll ever meet -- and that I've ever met. I want to grow up and be like him. He's taught me to treat everyone the way that I want to be treated and that if I give, it'll come back ten times over. He definitely practices what he preaches.

[Incidentally, Cody is the spitting image of his Dad, Brad Simpson, who is in fact now sitting on the couch adjacent to us, smiling].

If you could have a socially conscious superpower and change one thing about the world, what would it be?

I would be able to turn salt water into fresh water. I spoke about water being an important social issue. I'd zap the ocean [and it would be fresh water], and that would help solve the problem.

We're all about living me to we: making choices that positively impact the world, instead of just ourselves. Describe the moment you decided you wanted to give back.

I don't think there was a specific moment. As I started developing a voice, I realized that I could use my talents and my music as a way to share the right message with my fans and listeners. I wanted to use my voice to share a positive, inspirational message with them.

[By that I mean] There comes a great responsibility [with being a role model]. As a teenager, we all make mistakes and it's just a part of growing up. Luckily I haven't made too many...at least big ones [laughs]. It feels good to know that every day when I wake up I could make someone's day by giving them a hug or signing an autograph. It can be as simple as that. It feels good to know that people admire what I do. All my hard work pays off in that sense.

If people from the future were talking about you, what would you want them to say? What kind of legacy do you want to leave?

I'm still 15 years old. It's not something that I've thought about too deeply. As of right now, I'm taking it one day at a time. If I can keep making people's day and inspiring them with my music, that's what I'll keep doing. I guess I want people to say that I was a good guy, a good bloke.

We work with so many young people. Normally, we'd ask you to looking back and give advice to your high school self. But you're still in high school -- what advice would you give your peers?

Yeah, I'm still in high school. I guess I'd give some of the advice my Dad's given me, about giving back and helping others. I do realize that I have a voice [on Twitter, for example], and I'm sure to share positive messages with them. It's important for them to see me doing good and doing my part to help make a difference. [Cody later tweets about his involvement with We Day, for example]. If they see me doing that, it might inspire them to do the same. I just try to be a good role model for all my fans.

Craig and Marc Kielburger are founders of international charity and educational partner, Free The Children. It's youth empowerment event, We Day, is in eight cities across Canada this year, inspiring more than 100,000 attendees. For more information, visit www.weday.com or follow
Craig on Twitter at @craigkielburger

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