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This year, the theme was “bold moves” and showcased the bold endeavours of a diverse group of teenagers. Promotion for the event read:
“We have never been more connected, more innovative, or more resourceful. We have also never felt the weight of the present and future more than right now.”
Accordingly, there was a serious but hopeful tone to the talks. We heard from youth grappling with prejudice, mental illness, isolation and death – sharing stories of what it means to be a teen, maturing and learning to cope with realities from which we are sheltered as children.
Each one of the speakers had a positive strategy for dealing with personal and global pain. We heard from a young Syrian refugee who, despite odds and parental hair-tearing, managed to carry her school books across borders to ensure her education. We heard from a young girl, mercilessly bullied and abused, who had channelled her experience into the creation of an app that allowed other isolated youth to find peers to sit with at lunchtime. We heard from a self-taught computer-scientist who’s personal experience in Afghanistan inspired him to create artificial intelligence for improved breast cancer detection.
The event opened with a reflection upon every participants place in a historical chain:
“We are here today, in this moment on this planet, as a result of decisions that humans have made every year, month, day, hour, minute and second that have come before.”
It was only fitting then the day should conclude with a voice from the past: Ben Ferencz, the last surviving prosecutor from the Nuremburg Tribunals, joined via skype to share his experiences, fears and hopes for the future. He addressed his audience directly and with respect, speaking to them not as children but as bourgeoning adults about to take on a world of responsibility. Ferencz metaphor of passing on the torch of humanity and progress to this new generation had a clear impact. From the speakers we had the pleasure of listening to that day, we can think of no better a group of young people to rise to the challenge Ferencz’s described.