Space icon Buzz Aldrin speaks at WE Day Seattle 2017 on Friday. (GeekWire photos / Kevin Lisota)
Write down your goals, listen more, and dream big.
These are good pieces of advice for anyone, really, but they held special importance for more than 15,000 students who gathered inside an energetic Key Arena on Friday in Seattle for WE Day, an annual event that celebrates youth empowerment.
WE Day events, hosted by non-profit WE, are attended annually by more than 200,000 students from more than 10,000 schools in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. Students earn tickets by participating in local WE Schools programs.
There were several celebrities who spoke on stage Friday in Seattle, including space icon Buzz Aldrin. The Apollo 11 moonwalker, now 87 years old, said that he was once a kid “who dreamed big dreams.”
“No dream is too high,” Aldrin told the crowd. “I know because I am living proof.”
Aldrin, who was in Seattle two months ago visiting the Blue Origin headquarters, voiced his support for funding space programs, saying that “by venturing into space we improve life for everyone here on Earth.” He also told a few jokes, noting how he took the “first selfie” during the Gemini 12 mission in 1966.
“In order to be a real selfie, the camera has to be attached to a spacecraft in orbit,” Aldrin joked. “That is the most expensive selfie stick ever made.”
I’m ready to go on stage to share my story of service, education, hard work and teamwork with the kids at #WeDaySeattle. pic.twitter.com/W0xQtY8tbv
— Buzz Aldrin (@TheRealBuzz) April 21, 2017
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, a WE Day Seattle co-chair, also took the stage and received huge cheers from his hometown fans.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson speaks at WE Day Seattle 2017.
Wilson told the backstory of his “Why not you?” mantra. Growing up, Wilson wasn’t projected to be one of the NFL’s top stars.
“People told me I couldn’t play in the National Football League; that I couldn’t graduate early in three years; that I couldn’t do this or that,” said Wilson, who was the 75th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. “It was about asking that fundamental question about, why couldn’t it be me?”
Wilson, whose wife Ciara co-chairs the event, said he would write down his goals and advised the students to do the same.
“I hope everybody in this room is writing down their goals and what they want to do in life,” he said. “Once you set those goals out, go achieve them. But you can’t achieve them alone — you need to achieve them with other people.”
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin.
Wilson wasn’t the only Seahawk on stage, as his top wide receiver Doug Baldwin also shared words of encouragement. Baldwin talked about the beginning of Seattle’s most recent season and how the team had to learn to listen to each other.
“We all felt strongly about something and wanted to get a message across,” he explained. “I know you guys have similar situations where you want to say something right away and get a reaction from somebody. But the most important thing that you can do is listen.”
Baldwin stressed that his teammates not only had to listen to each other, but also do so as a team.
“We knew the only way we could do it productively is that we had to do it together,” he said. “So we had to sacrifice the me for the we.”
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, another WE Day Seattle co-chair, also spoke briefly, as did Seattle Sounders players Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan. The event and is co-sponsored by Microsoft and The Allstate Foundation. Microsoft Executive VP of Worldwide Commercial Business Judson Althoff is another event co-chair.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll speaks at WE Day 2017 in Seattle.Seattle Sounders players Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan.
During the 2015-2016 school year, WE Schools groups in Seattle volunteered more than 500,000 hours for local and global causes and raised more than $900,000 for more than 600 local organizations. Since 2007, WE Schools have raised nearly $80 million and volunteered more than 27 million hours for various causes.