Arts + Entertainment

Stepping Up at We Day

Activist Spencer West urges action over struggle at Minnesota’s first We Day.

Spencer West We Day Minnesota
Only 50 percent of the people who attempt to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro end at the top. Spencer West did, and with only 50 percent of the limbs most of us have. West climbed Kilimanjaro on his hands. 
He was born without the use of his legs, and doctors amputated them when he was five. The story of his life, and the choices he's made in it, is meant to inspire kids at Minnesota’s first We Day, an all-day concert on Oct. 8 at the Xcel Energy Center that celebrates the power of service.

To get into We Day, kids in partnering schools must earn it. They must perform one local and one international act of service. Then, at the We Day concert, their actions are collectively celebrated by some of the biggest names in human rights and entertainment. Here in Minnesota the lineup will include the Jonas Brothers, Martin Luther King III, Carly Rae Jepsen, Mia Farrow, the Kenyan Boys Choir, and Minnesota’s own Mark Dayton and Dessa, among others.
“It’s 18,000 kids in a room who are recognizing that they’re not the only ones struggling,” West told Mpls.St.Paul Magazine editors. “I want kids to understand that if I can do what I’ve done, think about the things we can do.”
That’s We Day’s big message: our struggles don’t define us, our actions do. It’s why West has not been satisfied to be “a man with no legs.” He’s an activist creating social change in Kenya and India, a traveling ambassador with Free the Children (the parent organization of We Day) who’s on the road “400 days a year,” and one of the few in the world who’ve climbed Kilimanjaro.
If you’re a kid and you're struggling, “that’s just a part of your story,” West will tell Minnesota's youth. And it’s normal. “Trying something, making change, that means stepping out of your comfort zone.” 
And sometimes it means stepping into the spotlight, in front of 18,000 people: “Yeah. I’m a nervous wreck!” West says of the days leading up to We Day. “But the minute my hand touches the stage, my whole being tells me I’m in the right place. I feel like I’m with 18,000 of my best friends.”