Kids of the Gulf & the World Domination Summit

Sunday, July 8th, I had the incredible honor and privilege to address 1,000 remarkable people from around the world at a conference called the World Domination Summit in Portland, Oregon. The conference creator, Chris Guillebeau asked attendees that wanted to share their work from the main stage to submit their stories in advance to be considered. Out of over 300 submissions, the story of Kids of the Gulf was chosen to be featured in an attendee stories forum on the last day of the conference.

World Domination Summit 2012

Chris posed this question to the audience on day one: “How do you live a remarkable life in a conventional world?” Everyone came for their own reasons, but this question captures the essence of why many attendees decided to travel across the world to participate.

It would be hard to overestimate how profound this experience was for me personally, but also how much it shows that the story of this film is indeed uniquely compelling and thought provoking.

I was the first of 13 people to present and I had 5 minutes to share the story that has come to define the past 2 years of my life. An interesting thing happened that I feel compelled to share with you; I walked up to the microphone and began my talk in front of a packed theater of individuals that are thirsty for remarkable stories of people that are creating big shifts in the world. I thought I might take too long and have to shorten my ending at the 5 minute mark. But instead, I had a few moments of pause and reflection shortly after I started. When I began speaking again, my tone shifted and the words poured forth directly from my heart.

Brandon Sutton at World Domination Summit

Below is the talk as I had written it originally. I wanted to share it with our supporters and people that are checking out our film for the first time to give you a very personal glimpse of why I began this journey and why I’ve continued to pursue it for the past 2 years.

“How many people here today were disturbed by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico 2 years ago? Like you, I was deeply troubled and as the disaster unfolded, I searched for a way to have a positive impact. I believed that there were lessons that we needed to learn regarding the extraction and use of oil and its true impacts on people and the environment around the world, but much of what I saw in the media and in social media channels was finger pointing and BP protests. Missing from the dialogue was how we all play a part in the system that led to the worst environmental disaster in US history.

I wanted to engage deeper, so I threw together a video and blog post asking for donations and organized a small expedition of volunteers to visit the Gulf and document the impact on the people who live in the local communities along the coast. We called it Spirit of the Gulf Coast, and it was a key turning point for me. It showed me that taking direct action on things I believe strongly in can have a big impact on others, while fulfilling my desire to make a difference at the same time.

I was never the same after that experience, and the stories continued to haunt me months later. A year later, I re-visited the same areas we went to before and I was disturbed by what I saw and heard. You see, despite the flashy ad campaigns and relatively sparse media attention, the impacts on the people are still very real, particularly with kids. Families who depend on the seafood industry for survival have seen their incomes plummet while costs continue to rise. Many kids in these households are left to do without the most basic provisions, and some have had to drop out of school to find work to help support their families. These are resilient people, but this disaster has pushed many of them beyond the breaking point.

Not long after I returned from that trip, I was approached by 2 remarkable young change agents, Devon and Devin, ages 8 and 14 and founders of the worldwide Kids Army on Twitter who said they wanted to help make a difference with the oil spill. They’ve connected kids from all over the world to work together to help solve some of society’s biggest challenges. We decided to make a film about the spill’s impacts on kids along the coast, as experienced from the perspective of other kids. It’s called Kids of the Gulf, and it’s become a rallying cry for youth around the world that want to see a more responsible approach to energy use, social justice and environmental protection.

We’ve had people from 52 countries on 6 continents promoting our project and 24 of those countries sent in donations to our crowd funding campaigns on Kidsofthegulf.com. Kids of the Gulf has come to signify a positive movement led by young people who feel strongly that they deserve to have their voices heard. They are not voting age yet, but they’ve found a way to connect through Twitter and share information and opportunities for activism on issues they feel strongly about. When they see something they want to change, they go into immediate action. ‘Wait’ is not in their vocabulary. ‘You can’t do that’ is not something they accept.

2 years ago, I made a choice to take action on something that I felt strongly about. I’d never done anything like this before and had no idea what I was getting myself into. I just knew I had to do something beyond comment on oil spill articles posted on Facebook. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of the most inspiring young people I’ve ever known, and one of my biggest heroes on animal rights and environmental issues is on speed dial. We’re making a film that will have an impact on people around the world and will help engage a new generation with dialogue on clean & sustainable energy, resource conservation and efficiency initiatives.

It all started with the decision to take action and leap into the unknown. Had I waited to pitch this idea to a film studio or get the buy-in of partners or investors, I may never have done any of this.

My friend Jeff once remarked to me that the Wright Brothers didn’t have a pilot’s license. Well, I don’t have a degree in changing the world, but an opportunity to make a difference was there and I leaned in and went for it.

For those of you who have your own causes or issues you care about, don’t wait for everyone to agree with you. Don’t wait to get the perfect equipment or the endorsement of someone famous. Start. Take action now! You’ll attract others who feel the same way. It worked for me, and it’s resulted in the best work I’ve ever done in my life.

I hope each of you will take that first action, whatever it may be. Here at WDS, we have a remarkable opportunity to come together with other change agents who are doing incredible work in the world. I encourage you to stay in touch with the people you’ve met here and continue to push the limits of possibility in the weeks and months ahead. The world truly does need us all to be at the top of our game.

Thank you all for showing up, and special thanks to Chris and the WDS Action Team for facilitating this incredible experience!”

# # #

Chris Guillebeau at the World Domination Summit

I’ve never felt more supported in my life than I did at the conclusion of Sunday’s program. Chris came onto the stage at the end to bring the formal conference to a close and began telling a story of an anonymous donor that approached him with a significant sum of money because this person saw the power of last year’s inaugural World Domination Summit. The WDS team discussed the best way to use this money for good and they elected to distribute the money back to attendees to use in their own pursuits in making positive changes throughout the world. Each paid attendee would receive $100 as we left the theater.

My jaw dropped. I’ve never felt anything like it. Such appreciation and love. Wow.

I left the theater along with 1,000 other attendees who shared my shock and delight at this magnificent gift and went into the lobby to talk with people. Several people approached me and said they were really moved by my story and wanted to know how to help. One lady even brought her envelope with $100 in it and said she wanted to donate it to Kids of the Gulf.

I knew when I left Atlanta that speaking from the main stage at this conference would be a unique opportunity to share the story of Kids of the Gulf, and it was everything I hoped for and much more.

I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Chris Guilllebeau and the whole Action Team at WDS for creating the opportunity for each of us to share in this remarkable weekend and for having the faith in me and this work to have us featured in front of the entire audience at WDS. I encourage each of you who read this to check out Chris and the work he is doing in the world. He’s one to follow and support, becuase his entire life is about service to others. He’s a model human and global citizen and I’m proud to call him my friend.

Thank you all for believing in this film. We have something really special here, and I’m more encouraged than ever that this story will bring about remarkable change in this conventional world we live in. Onward…

Brandon

p.s. I’ll think long and heard on how best to use the $200 that was donated yesterday. If you have ideas, please do share. :)

 

Photos courtesy of Armosa Studios

Comments

28 Responses to “Kids of the Gulf & the World Domination Summit”
  1. Alan says:

    Great hanging out with you this past weekend, Brandon. Look forward to following along with this project!

  2. Jack says:

    Great article and good job, bro.

  3. Stephen says:

    Wow, Brandon. Huge congrats, man. Keep up the incredible work :)

  4. C.C. Chapman says:

    Awesome to meet you this weekend and I’m glad we got some time to talk more about your project. Hearing what the kids are doing is beyond inspiring!!!

    • Brandon says:

      The pleasure was all mine, C.C. And yes, the work that these kids are doing is inspiring beyond my ability to convey it. Thanks for the comment, and I hope we can stay in touch! :)

  5. lori bosarge says:

    Hi Brandon, I’m so glad that you are following through with your story on the gulf and the impact it has brought on the coastal communities. I would like to make a recomendation to use the $200 donation for school supplies for children in the bayou. Thank you for sharing with us and thank you to Chris G. and the WDS for helping us here on the GOM to keep sharing our story. There is much work to be done. The impact from the oil disaster and the dispersants used are a continious threat to not only our environment but to our health as well. It’s very difficult to know who to trust at this point. I appreciate Brandon and Spirit of the Gulf Coast that has followed thru and has a true passion to stay focused on what is needed for our coastal communities.

    • Brandon says:

      Thanks so much, Lori. For those of you following this comment stream, Lori is one of the people we interviewed in coastal Alabama in August 2010. She has been instrumental in keeping me informed of the issues that still affect the people living in the bayous of lower Alabama.

      Lori, I have some ideas around the school supplies actually, and it will be well beyond $200 worth! I’ll share details with you once I have a better idea of how it might work. Great thinking – we’re on the same page! :)

  6. Vicki says:

    That is AWESOME! Your words were both powerful and moving. I’m proud to be your friend and you inspire me and the kids daily. I’m positive there are more amazing things to come your way to get this Documentary made.

  7. Chris Blair says:

    Brandon- your story and what your are doing with Kids of the Gulf is inspiring. I look forward to seeing you again next year at WDS 2013. I look forward to following your progress. Keep up the great work and CHANGE THE WORLD!

    Cheers,

    Chris Blair

  8. I’m happy I had the opportunity to tell you this in person as I was walking out of the Crystal Ballroom Sunday night, but I’ll say it again: I absolutely loved your presentation! You were a natural up there, and the work you’re doing is AWESOME. Your passion and dedication shines through and I’m looking forward to following the Kids of the Gulf project. Rock on, Brandon!

    • Brandon says:

      Willo, I can’t thank you enough for your touching words. That was a huge moment for me and for this project overall. I’m so glad it came through the way I hoped. I’m so glad we connected and I look forward to staying in touch!

  9. Chris Brogan says:

    Pretty good stuff here. I like what you’re thinking. Sounds like there’s quite a big opportunity to help others. Make it happen, sir. : )

    • Brandon says:

      Thanks so much, Chris. There is indeed a huge opportunity to help others here. We’re going for it all the way! Thanks again for your support. :)

  10. Remarkable job my friend. Simply remarkable! You did an amazing job on stage. Going first is never easy. But you nailed it.

    I have no doubt that Kids of the Gulf will come to fruition and profoundly influence the conversations about renewable energies, public policies and environmental protections. You have the vision and talent, and–now more than ever–1,000+ true believers behind you.

    Go get ‘em :)

    Matt

    • Brandon says:

      Thanks for your incredible support throughout the weekend and in the days leading up to it. I had an amazing time! This is definitely a huge opportunity for me, and it’s so nice to hear that the story is resonating with others.

      Thanks again!

  11. Brandon, I’m the person who was so moved by your talk that I immediately wanted to donate to Kids of the Gulf the WDS $100 windfall. I’m active in a local environmental group in White Plains, NY, called EcoNeighbors. We’ve worked on a number of issues including a successful partnership with the city and a local charity, the Furniture Sharehouse, to re-use no-longer-needed but still-good items via a Take It or Leave It shed http://www.facebook.com/tili.whiteplains. Our goal is to keep still usable items out of the waste stream and out of our rivers and oceans, where all too many of them “accidentally” wind up. We’re pushing the city to ban plastic bags, fighting against development of what little open space is left here, and other issues. I’m particularly concerned with world-wide pollution of our streams, rivers, and oceans, including the sub-surface oceans. We EcoNeighbors are all mothers of grown or not-quite-grown kids to whom we want to leave a livable earth. We often worry that new generations are oblivious to these issues or don’t care about them. That’s why I was so excited to hear about Kids of the Gulf – kids organizing themselves to insist their parents find ways of living that tread more lightly on the earth. I love your log line: “All those involved in this film know that kids are the real change makers in their communities and believe strongly that the media they consume should be representative of their great potential.” I’ll continue to follow your progress, and spread the word about it.

    • Brandon says:

      Anne, thank you so, so much for your thoughts and of course for the generous donation at WDS. It’s always helpful to receive financial support, but just as important is the moral support from people who see the story for what it is and get excited by it. That was the biggest boost for me, and I can’t thank you enough for being such a big part of it.

      Keep up the great work up in White Plains, and I’ll stay in touch with you regarding our progress as things continue to move forward. Thank you again!

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