PGB Connects Season 3 Episode 5 – Stand Up and Make Positive Change

PGB Connects Season 3 Episode 5 – Stand Up and Make Positive Change


Project Give Back and Project Give Back Connects are all about embracing kindness and educating our youth about the importance of empathy, compassion, leadership and community mindedness. In a world where so many people hate, we can learn so much more from those who love.

It was Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Ellen has had a front row view of pure love in action for 21 years, and the results were magnificent. While her son Jacob couldn’t see you, he felt you. And if you were kind – he loved you. Imagine if WE did not judge others by our own perceptions?

Why is there so much hate in our world? How can we combat it together? How can we erase the hate and create more love and understanding?

We had some experts who had some answers and life experiences to share about this extremely difficult, yet important topic.

Our first guest was Michael Levitt.  Michael is the President and CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, Canada’s leading human rights organization devoted to Holocaust education and fighting Antisemitism and other forms of racism. He is a regular columnist in the Toronto Star, he’s also frequently interviewed in the media on issues pertaining to human rights, social inclusion, discrimination, and hate. As a former two-term Member of Parliament, he served as Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and was a founding member of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Online Antisemitism.

Michael spoke about how to combat hate; by standing up and making a change. He went on to quote two holocaust survivors, whose lessons remain so critical today. 

“Freedom is not a gift from heaven, you have to fight for it every day.”

The first quote was from Simon Wiesenthal, who as a teenager in the Holocaust, lost 89 family members.  Yet, he never gave up.  Instead, he sought justice and committed his life to track down former nazis, and have them persecuted for their crimes. He made it his life mission. His quote:

“Be upstanders, not bystanders.”

Max Eisen said, when you see hate, have the confidence and courage to say something. He was committed to spreading a message of love, activism and making his story one to inspire. There was no bitterness nor anger with Max. He only wanted to ensure that the lessons he learned from the Holocaust were shared. 

We live in a complicated time, especially for youth. Social media can be so confusing. Like recent hate speeches spread by Kanye West and Kyle Irving, they allowed their words to cause pain to others. When evil prevails through negative messages, we need to find the strength to push back. We need to discuss, address and speak out about our feelings. Remember you are not alone. Go to someone you trust and stand up for what is good, because the best defense against evil, is good people. 

Michael then  told us about ‘The Tour for Humanity’, which are mobile classrooms that travel throughout the provinces. They offer programming based on the Holocaust,human rights, and genocide, with programs geared towards different grade levels.  They are able to reach communities that may not have been exposed to these issues and allow them access to these invaluable messages.

Next up, we had another real star, Star Jackman. Star is a determined and compassionate young man who has overcome many obstacles in his life. He uses his skills and passion for boxing to help others find their path to success. He has an unwavering positive attitude and has become a role model for many.

Star spoke about his upbringing, as a first generation Canadian who came  from a large family.  He was raised by white parents in a small town, with a predominately white community. So as a child, he often faced bullying, just by being different, due to the colour of his skin.

As he grew up, Star came to understand how to view the world by communicating who he was. “It doesn’t matter what anyone says about you, it matters about how you view yourself.”  He got into athletics.  When he got into physical altercations, he quickly learned that he couldn’t fight everyone who was negative.  Not everything in life needs a reaction.  Therefore, he channeled his energy into boxing.  

Through boxing, Star learned to trust himself and others and understand that you can be more than what you are.  With boxing, he learned to make commitments, learn about perspective and letting go. Today, Star is a provincial champion.  He also coaches and trains kids who came from similar backgrounds. Boxing saved him and changed the trajectory of his life.

Next up, we enjoyed a serenade by a Project Give Back Connects favourite, Seth Zosky. He is a triple threat – singer/dancer/actor and now he is a Juno nominated songwriter! Seth introduced his fitting song choice,  ‘Beautiful’, by Christina Aguilera, by sharing a poem that he wrote:

Your beauty is yours and yours only 

For it makes you unique

It is still there shining through and through even when you are weak

Each and everyone of us holds a special place in this thing we call life

You are loved, you are cherished 

Don’t listen to words that cut like a knife 

Stay true to your heart and that is where you are meant to be 

No matter who you are your beauty runs free 

Wow, now that was truly beautiful!

Our young guest was Cole Florence. Cole had many lessons to teach us. He was just assigned a project at school to combat bullying. He told us that 1/5 students report being bullied and that the effects of bullying increase depression, stress, anxiety and give you low self-esteem. If you are a victim, you must speak up.  We all need to do our part. What an impressive young advocate Cole has become!

We heard similar messages from all ages and experiences, all with a clear message to share; stand up and speak out against hate. 

Thank you to all of our special guests for these important lessons. 

Please share this episode with anyone who might benefit from learning from these powerful messages.

Each week ends with the same message. Today, it seems even more pertinent. 

As always, be kind to one another, embrace one another and learn from one another. If we do these simple three things, our world will be a lot brighter.