Speakers inspire student leaders

The Queen’s Canadian Leadership Conference (QCLC) saw 11 Canadian leaders, four Queen’s alumni and two television personalities come together to inspire students to incite social change across the world.

The opening ceremony introduced the theme of breaking barriers — the idea that you should stop at nothing in order to achieve your dream. This theme weaved its way through each of the keynote speakers’ and panelists’ personal stories, culminating in an incredible two-day conference.

The weekend kicked off with the fun, motivating and incredibly fashionable MuchMusic VJ Sarah Taylor. After undergoing a “spiritual epiphany” following a near-death experience from a brain injury, Taylor highlighted the “power of adversity” in bringing about significant change.

As a VJ, Sarah harnessed her relationships and resources to make emotional videos that allowed her audience to “learn about the little guys” that she hopes to help. For example, Sarah travelled to Ethiopia with Plan Canada to document and raise awareness for families suffering from drought and malnourishment.

By airing her experience on MuchMusic, Taylor reached out to a demographic that wouldn’t necessarily be aware of these issues otherwise. She goes above her own job description to report on what she feels is important.

Already feeling empowered, the delegates welcomed the next keynote speaker: Jay Rosenthal. As the Program Director of Public Impact Lab, he explained the harsh reality that people are more likely to do positive things in the world when there’s a personal incentive involved.

He paralleled this statement with an example of young people being reluctant to vote, but if bribed with a free beer in exchange for their vote, turnout would be much higher.

Rosenthal pointed out that people looking to effect social change work within this model. For example, Rexall sponsored a free flu shot in Uganda for every flu shot they gave in Canada.

Next up was Canadian Armed Forces veteran and Amazing Race competitor Jody Mitic. While on his tour of duty in Afghanistan, Mitic lost both of his feet after stepping on a landmine.

Mitic spoke about his journey to get his life back on track after the tragedy and all the accomplishments he achieved. For example, he’s a marathon runner and outspoken advocate for veterans’ rights.

The audience was riveted by Mitic. His story was a concrete example of what people are capable of if they’re prepared to persevere.

As the first black Canadian woman to win a medal at the Olympic winter games, bobsledder Shelley-Ann Brown passed on some valuable advice during a panel discussion.

“Pursuing your passion is 100 per cent of who you are,” Brown said.

“Whatever the thing is you love to do, you can’t regret doing it with 100 per cent of the effort.”

In other words, any time spent working towards a goal is always worth it. Brown explained the importance of doing what you love in order to live a fulfilling life, a sentiment that truly inspired the whole room.

Other speakers and panelists included Jan Caruana, Asad Chishti, Tim Evans, Maria Nasr, Wendy Cherwinski and Blair Adamache, all of whom were equally motivational.

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