By Marian Salzman, Saturday, February 13, 2010, at 3:40 pm.
Originally posted on the Huffington Post.
There were so many high points of this week’s One Young World summit, which brought nearly 1,000 young people from around the world together in London to address the most challenging issues facing the world today. But if I were asked for one that really stands out, I would say Wyclef Jean’s address to the delegates on Wednesday.
His speech brought home the Power of One. Appearing via satellite, looking unassuming in a yellow Adidas jacket, he was deeply inspiring and intensely real. The fact that he gave a speech and did a Q&A with the delegates via satellite also proves the power of technology in helping people embrace and live change.
Jean, a Grammy-winning musician, is from Haiti and spoke movingly of his homeland in his address. Asked how leaders can ensure that Haiti receives the aid it’s been promised, he replied: “Ending corruption in Haiti is an important step in ensuring the people who are in need receive help and supplies. It begins with the government and NGOs, including my NGO.” (Jean’s foundation is Yéle Haiti, which uses music, sports and the media to reinforce projects that are making a difference in education, health, environment and community development.)
On a more individual level, Jean said that in order to make an impact, it takes more than money: “We have to act. We have to put physical participation and mind to the ground to make a change.… If musicians sing about change in Africa, I won’t be convinced until I see them on the ground helping people.”
He talked about his life when he was the same age as the young leaders he was addressing, as well as his time with the Fugees: “Fugees is short for refugees…. We took a word with negative connotations and turned it around and made it our voice. I took every opportunity to promote my passion of Haiti through music and urge all the young people to do the same through their chosen medium.”
His parting words were: “I have devoted my entire existence to my country and will continue. And I want to thank you for joining me, and I look forward to seeing you in Haiti.”
I was electrified by his talk, and as I often do when I’m excited about something that’s unfolding, I took to Twitter. Here are some of my tweets (@mariansalzman):
Celebrity isn’t the only way the Power of One can be felt, or the only way to bring healing to Haiti. The Power of One can be felt just as strongly in the everyday.
In early January, James Alcime was just another of the thousands of applicants for One Young World. (I decided against saying “ordinary,” because none of the summit delegates was remotely ordinary.) Like the others, he was passionate, accomplished and deserving of a place at the summit, which he was awarded on his merits. But on Jan. 12, his world changed irrevocably: He lives in Haiti.
The extraordinary efforts of the One Young World team around the world got him to London. When he addressed his fellow delegates and recorded a “message for Haitian young people” video, his words were eloquent and understated, yet undeniably powerful: “A new Haiti is possible.”