By Barb Barrar, ONE Volunteer Leader in New Jersey
It could not have been a more beautiful day for a free concert in New York City. On Saturday, September 26, more than 60,000 people gathered on the Great Lawn in Central Park to enjoy the Global Citizen Festival. The aim of the concert was to bring people together not only for a day of great music, but more importantly to introduce them to the newly announced Global Goals and let them know how to take action to achieve them. The Global Goals are 17 aspiring, yet achievable, goals set forth during the UN General Assembly to alleviate poverty, inequality and climate change.
Volunteers from ONE were among many festival-goers who enjoyed sets by Coldplay, Beyonce, Pearl Jam, Ed Sheeran and more. ONE is a global advocacy organization, co-founded by Bono (from that ’lil Irish band U2) and other activists, which is comprised of more than 7 million members worldwide. ONE members reach out to their elected leaders to make sure they are creating and following through on policies that will work to eliminate extreme poverty and preventable, treatable diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria.
ONE volunteers were out in the crowd, clipboards in hand, to ask folks to write a brief note to their respective Senators urging them to support the Reach Every Mother and Child Act of 2015 (S.1911), which will work to end preventable maternal, newborn, and child deaths. Folks were eager to write to their Senators in support of this vital issue. By the time the first band, Coldplay, was done performing, we’d already gathered nearly 700 handwritten messages!
After hours of canvassing the crowd, ONE volunteers settled down to enjoy the show. Coldplay started with an energetic performance that included surprise guest Ariana Grande. Ed Sheeran put on a mind-blowing performance, which was followed by none other than Queen Bee herself, Beyonce. Pearl Jam rounded out the evening under the light of a beautiful moon.
In between the musical performances we heard from numerous artists, activists and world leaders including the show hosts Stephen Colbert and Hugh Jackman. Others included First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, World Bank President Ji Yong Kim and Big Bird (yes, you read that right…Big Bird with the World Bank President!), Bono and Malala Yousafzai.
For me, the most inspiring speaker was Malala Yousafzai. You may remember her. Malala, as a young girl, defied the Taliban in Pakistan and demanded that girls be allowed to receive an education. As a result of speaking out, she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in 2012. She not only survived, but she raised her voice even louder!
Malala has been an outspoken global advocate for girls’ education. Her impassioned words did not come from a teleprompter, they came from her heart. You could literally feel the energy in the sea of people as she spoke about how important it is for all children, boys and girls, to receive a quality education. Demanding that primary education be a requirement of law worldwide for all children and that quality secondary education be available to all as well. Her words and passion brought tears to my eyes and made me and so many others want to do something about it!
It was a day filled with fantastic music, inspirational words and straight-up action. These Global Goals are achievable. Stand up and do something! As Bono had the audience chant the words of the great Nelson Mandela, “It is impossible until it is done.” Let’s do this. For more information, visit ONE.org.