My Summit 2010: The protests

This post was originally featured at The Next Great Generation.

I was privileged to be one of the 150 Millennials from around the world invited to the My Summit 2010 event. Each delegate was invited to participate and talk about their ideas for the future and challenge the G8 and G20 leaders to devise solutions that will benefit not only our generation, but also the generations yet to come.

Leading up to the G20 Summit proceedings, the downtown core of Toronto drastically transformed. Stores closed, businesses shut down and security tightened up. Police were on hand to re-route traffic, keep the peace and encourage people to stay out of trouble. On Saturday June 26, 2010, the first day of the G20 Summit, the youth delegates happened to be on a coach bus in downtown Toronto as the day’s events for the My Summit 2010 were taking place outside of the G20 lockdown zone. As we tried to move around the city, we were forced to experience what it was like to be in the midst of a protest.

For upwards of two hours the youth delegates were trapped amidst the commotion. Besides the disappointment we felt for the destruction and chaos that was ongoing, the general feeling in the air was that we were unaware of the message that anyone involved in the protests were trying to convey. It was beyond frustrating to be stuck in the frustrating confines of the bus, locked in for safety as we tried to get where we were going, impeded and delayed by the activity in the streets.

Protesters are often typified as young and reckless. They get lots of media attention because they are loud, proud and, in this particular case, ironically destructive. While there is lots of excitement around what happens at a protest of such magnitude, all of this commotion detracts from the main event and the real reason that so many people have gathered together.

While on the bus, we had limited access to the news, so our Blackberries became our fuel for updates via Twitter and news sites. We were enraged, excited, dismayed, shocked and awed at what was going on directly around us. Things changed by the second and, as we were potentially a target, the feeling in the pit of my stomach worsened. It was similar to the feeling of wearing a blindfold and having someone be your guide. Our blindfold was our lack of knowledge, creating fear of the unknown and our only guide was our ever present connection to the digital world.

I’ve lived and worked in Toronto and I’ve called Toronto my home. But on that day in Toronto, the city looked and felt nothing like the Toronto that I knew. Where there should have been tourists, there were protesters – everywhere.

Everyone can have an opinion, but it’s what you do with that opinion that matters.

I respect the right to an opinion and the rights of others to have their own. I don’t, however, respect unlawful destruction and the absence of a cohesive voice or substantiated opinion. Finding purpose in your voice is what will ultimately create change, so why not put your effort into something constructive that will get your voice heard and make a difference?

Seizing the opportunity to wreak havoc on a city simply because they have bulked up security is not effective. It is a harmful, frustrating, ineffective, complete waste of time, energy and resources.

There are probably a few parallels between those involved in the protests and those involved in the My Summit 2010 delegation. Both groups are young, on average, and are extremely passionate about specific issues. However, one group chose violence and destruction, while the other chose a forum that gave their cause a constructive and actionable voice. And on Saturday, June 26, 2010, the group that chose violence won the battle to get the best media coverage, simply by making a spectacle.

The delegates are people that are passionate about their future and want to make sure that the issues that are important to them are heard. I believe that our generation is willing to take risks, speak up and speak out on what they believe in.

My hope for the future is that events like the G8 and G20 will happen without protest. We need forums where our world leaders can talk about what issues face us. As Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in his closing address, “we no longer have a national economy, we have a global economy.”

We persevered through the protests and by night’s end the noise, commotion, and destruction had died down. The broken Starbucks windows will be fixed quickly, and soon enough Toronto will be back to normal, without protesters, extra police and steel barricades. Many people will reflect back on the G20 Summit of 2010 and think of what happened in the streets of Toronto.

I will look back and remember the decisions that were made, the subjects that were talked about and that the voice of our generation was heard.

My Summit 2010: Gen Y and World Leaders

This post was originally featured at The Next Great Generation.

Between June 23 and June 27, 2010, G8 youth delegates negotiated a youth communique that was presented to the G8 leaders and outlined their collective stance on four key issues:Nuclear non-proliferation and terrorism, food security, maternal and child health, and climate change. G20 youth delegates were privy to the G20 family photo, press conferences, inspiring speakers, and a program that allowed the G20 nations to understand just how powerful our generation is.

Last week I was in one of the most powerful rooms in the world, I’m sure of it. I was privy to a once-in-a-lifetime experience as a Canadian delegate taking part in the G8 and G20 Summits. It was awe-inspiring, incredibly empowering, and just too darn cool. 150 Millennials, all with incredible insight, well-formed opinions, and a collective vivacious spirit, were given the opportunity to draft a communique to represent the voice of a generation on the issues that are currently facing the G8 nations.

We all know that Millennials like to share their voices. We are confident with our words, passionate in the way we use them, and better yet, we’re not all talk; we take action, too. We’re committed to channeling our collective voice in way that constructively changes our own future for the better. And that’s exactly what we were doing at My Summit 2010.

Part of the awe that was omnipresent was the fact that we could joke, laugh and have fun, all while dreaming big for the future of our respective homes and native countries. Best of all, we shared our own strong, passionate, and lively viewpoints with the powers that be. In Canada, that meant having the opportunity to speak with the Governor General – Canada’s representative of The Queen.

Her Excellency The Right Honorable Michaelle Jean, more easily referred to as “the GG,” spent upwards of two hours listening to us. That’s right, listening to us.

She talked too, that’s for certain, but 80% of her time with us was spent listening to what we wanted to tell her about our future, our role in that future, and what changes we know are necessary for our generation to take on the burdens of the generations before us.

“Your reflections – every word counts,” were the words that greeted us as the GG began to address the delegation, saying also that, Our “presence here is vital” and that we must “seize the opportunity to make a difference.”

The spirit in the room was spell-binding. The energy at the summit was infectious. We clapped, we hooted and hollered. We cheered on our fellow delegates as we each took a turn at the microphone. Millennials have a high appetite for knowledge, and ideas, but also for change. The mantra in the room that day seemed to be “dream big.” Simple words; ones that we often don’t give enough credence to, but it was clear that these Millennials are definitely dreamers.

Canadian delegate Thomas Dehod pointed out that perhaps the right way to reflect President John F. Kennedy’s famous words is with a slight modification: “Ask not what the world can do for you, but what you can do for the world.”

So we proposed solutions – changes to involve more young people in government, support for economic development in ways that allow us to go into stable and rewarding jobs, ways to bridge the gap between the financially stable countries and the financially suffering. We had ideas for it all. Because, as Stephen Cheung, a delegate from the U.K. said, “There is no one issue more important to young people, all issues are important.”

What do 150 youth do with these kinds of words, interactions, and inspirations? We take them home to our own countries and we find ways to make change. We’re dedicated, inspired and ready to help out our generation. We’re no longer just the next generation; we’re the generation of today.

We’re connected, we’re relentlessly daring, and we’re ready to take action.

Canadian youth will have their say at the G8 and G20 Summit.

I believe in the voice of young Canadians.

After all, I am a young Canadian, and I’ve been afforded great opportunities in the past to demonstrate why young Canadians are in touch with issues facing our country and, more specifically, our generation.

The G8 and G20 Summits are fast approaching, and this year, a small and elite group of young Canadians will be bringing forward the voice of their generation at MY SUMMIT 2010, a youth conference that is being held in conjunction with the upcoming G8 and G20 meetings.

Not only will many young Canadians be exposed to the activities of the summit, but they will play a defining role in preparing a communiqué on behalf of the MY SUMMIT 2010 for presentation to the G8 leaders.

I am thrilled to say that I will be accompanying 40 Canadian students to the Summit as a team leader.

In total the youth delegation will involve 140 youth participants from around the world.

This event is the first of its kind in the history of the G8 summits, uniting young leaders to discuss and debate the same global themes being considered by senior officials, Ministers, and other dignitaries.

Talk about an amazing opportunity.

Canada is co-hosting MY SUMMIT 2010 with Global Vision, a national not-for profit organization engaging young Canadians through education and hands on experience to help create brighter futures for themselves, their communities, the country and the global community. I have travelled as a team member with Global Vision twice before, and now as a team leader I get to give back a little bit of wisdom and experience to those that are ready to take on the world with their enthusiasm, insights and passion for the future of our nation.

I’ll be checking in throughout the week of activity, and hopefully I’ll be able to capture some of the excitement here.

No doubt there will be a lot to share!