Star Power: A series 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.
On America's Independence Day, we find ourselves thinking about that time we went to Washington (state) to meet the (Kid) President. He was concerned about an intelligence breach.
The president made an official visit to We Day Seattle with his brother-in-law and chief advisor Brad Montague, the guy behind the camera in Kid President's inspirational video series for the media company Soul Pancake. We had a small digital recorder with us when we met; the president's eyes widened at this.
"I thought you were gonna spy on us!" he exclaimed.
We reminded him that reconnaissance is a bit more covert. The president considered this.
"Yeeaah...you would hide it somewhere," he said cagily.
Score one for international relations.
Kid President is Robby Novak, who took office in 2012, at age nine, and became the self-appointed leader of...well, his exact jurisdiction is unclear. He was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a congenital disorder that causes brittle bones, and the video project started, in part, as a means to share Robby's "resilience" with others. It's also an indoor activity, which has helped him heal some of the 70-odd bone breaks he's had so far.
Robby's YouTube appearances as Kid President became a meme -- "Pep talk" has so far racked up over 24-million views. It was followed by more videos featuring celebrity appearances. President Barack Obama himself appeared via tin-can phone, and later invited Robby to visit the real Oval Office.
We spoke to Montague and Robby backstage at We Day. They told us that any kid can be Kid President.
What do you think is the biggest problem in the world today?
Robby: Hmmmmm...I would probably have to say getting up on the stage --
Montague: -- for the whole world, Robby, not just you!
Robby: Ohhhhh [long pause]. I'm really stumped on this question.
Montague: What does the world need people to do?
Robby: Stop being boring...by dancing.
Do you think dancing could solve a lot of the world's problems?
Robby: Well, I wouldn't say a lot, but some.
Many people watch your videos and you have lots of fans. But who is your hero?
Robby: Allan Jacks [a friend of Robby's]. He's a tall kid and he plays basketball.
Why is he your hero?
Robby: He's tall. And he plays basketball.
Montague [laughing]: Why don't I answer some of these, if I may? We do the videos together. It's a collaborative adventure. One of the reasons we started this was because one of the world's greatest problems is that not everyone feels like they have a voice. We believe that kids can and will change the world, but they need somebody to tell them that you matter and you have a voice -- even if you're a little kid and all you have is cardboard and string.
Robby's an amazing kid, but we could give any kid a voice and have people listen and they would learn something valuable.
What do you think of that, Robby?
Robby: Oh. Oh, was I supposed to be listening?
Montague [sighs with feigned exasperation]: This is what he does...he mocks me. I didn't even get to say my heroes. My heroes are Mr. Rogers...and...Allan Jacks!
[raucous laughter from Robby]
Montague: But really, anybody who has the courage to be a light in darkness, anybody who has the courage to be themselves, to bring joy, even when it's not easy.
We believe in living me to we, and giving back. Why do you like making videos to help and inspire people?
Robby: I like to dance to make the world better.
Montague: Who are you helping? Who did we make a video for? Gabby?
Robby: Gabby's an awesome girl who's fighting cancer like a boss.
Montague: And you have a special place in your heart for kids who are sick, right?
Robby: Yeah. I have OI but it's really pronounced osteogenesis imperfecta. And it means you break a lot. It hurts.
If you had a superpower and could change one thing about the world what would it be?
Robby: I would say...flying. Because then I could go faster and just help a lady or something.
It would cut down on carbon emissions significantly...
Robby: I would fly and save somebody. And super strength.
I guess fighting crime would change the world...
Montague: And I think if people could fly they would see the world differently. I think the superpower that would change everything would be if you could empathize immediately with everybody. Then we would immediately know -- I get why you're angry and why you're doing what you're doing.
But...also flying. If you could do that while flying, then that's best case scenario.
Robby, what advice would you give other kids your age?
Play fair. Be nice.
Craig and Marc Kielburger are founders of international charity and educational partner, Free The Children. Its youth empowerment event, We Day, is in 11 cities across North America this year, inspiring more than 160,000 attendees from over 4,000 schools. For more information, visit www.weday.com