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.
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.
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!”
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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…
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