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Human rights activist Craig Kielburger urges UVic students to use studies to do good

Sep 05 2012
Craig Kielburger kicked off the University of Victoria's 50th anniversary celebrations on Tuesday. 

Craig Kielburger kicked off the University of Victoria's 50th anniversary celebrations on Tuesday.

Photograph by: Bruce Stotesbury, Times Colonist , Times Colonist

A gym full of high-energy new students started the University of Victoria's 50th anniversary celebration Tuesday with a standing ovation when human rights activist Craig Kielburger urged them to seek educated hearts to go with their minds.

The founder of children's rights organization Free the Children told the incoming class that their studies could work in tandem with "small acts of great love that will truly change the world for the better."

Kielburger, 29, congratulated UVic's 2,300 incoming students for the hard work that got them onto campus, but said he hoped that their personal pathways would merge with what the rest of humanity desperately needs.

The ability to attend university is "an extraordinary and rare opportunity that most people can only dream of," he said.

"There are 113 million children between five and 11 years who will never see the inside of a school."

Forty-eight hours before his keynote address, Kielburger was in south Kenya, where the finishing touches were being put on a school roof. There, excited students were vying to open the door for the first time.

The school is one of 650 built as a result of Kielburger's efforts to inspire others - tens of millions of dollars have been raised for Free the Children and Me to We, which he founded with brother Marc.

He challenged UVic's incoming class: "What will your legacy be of the next four years?"

Kielburger is optimistic. He has no time for those who put down today's youth as all about themselves - suffering from "affluenza" and into "slacktivism" that requires only the clicking of a mouse.

"That's the perception - it's absolutely not true," he said in an interview.

"Youth under 25 are the most likely to volunteer of any age group in Canada."

UVic president David Turpin noted that the school boasts more out-ofprovince students than any university west of Quebec, that 3,000 co-op students fan out to 30 countries and that researchers net the most per capita funding in Canada. More than 90,000 alumni hold UVic degrees.

But he, too, told the freshman class that some of their most valuable lessons will be "the appreciation of a higher calling of the human spirit" and the wisdom to learn how their actions can affect others.

Kielburger remembered how one of his own professors once chalked the phrase "MBA = BMW" as the rationale behind gruelling university studies.

He challenged today's students to seek their personal passion in tandem with their talents to help save their little piece of the world.

"Open yourself to that spark, because the world needs you."

For a calendar of anniversary events, go to uvic.ca/anniversary.


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