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Martin Luther King III keynote caps exciting in-person return of World Affairs Conference

By Jefferson Ding ’23 and Rahul Nanda ’23, WAC co-chairs
After three years online, the student-led conference’s live programming enabled a reach of more than 20 schools and 1,000 students from across the GTA.
A team of more than 50 students from Branksome Hall and Upper Canada College worked to produce WAC 2023: Hybrid Thinking on Feb. 9. 

Honoured guest Martin Luther King III engaged with a range of students on campus, including from the WAC team, the Lang Scholars, the Black Excellence Society, and Convergence newspaper. His visit culminated in his closing keynote in a packed Laidlaw Hall. 

King’s words were engaging and powerful. He spoke of a future vision for Canada — one inspired and built by us, the current youth and future generation, and moulded by the essence of the conference’s theme. 

“My dad was very much an advocate of hybrid thinking,” said Mr. King. “He adopted the non-violent philosophy, strategies, and techniques pioneered by Mahatma Gandhi in India to his deeply held Christian beliefs to craft a liberation movement that transformed and changed the U.S.”

Mr. King envisioned a future in Canada being pridefully led by a “black prime minister.”

While Mr. King’s address was met with an emphatic standing ovation, he was not the only speaker to receive one.

Comedian Ismael Loutfi joined us in Toronto from New York to present on his experiences in comedy and politics. He touched on the art of comedy as “relatable exaggeration” and his personal journey in comedy growing up in rural Florida in a devout Muslim family. Pursuing comedy as an escape to likability and freedom of voice, Loutfi eventually became a writer on Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act on Netflix, before making his way onto Jimmy Kimmel Live! for a stand-up special.

Loutfi joked that this was his first-ever speech, being an intimidating, scary, and funny experience to be presenting to “children in ties.”

Other dynamic speakers on an inspiring roster included Matthew Ball ’06 who spoke on the future of the metaverse and acclaimed lawyer Tricia “CK” Hoffler, who provided the conference’s opening keynote and talked about her diverse life experiences to emphasize the importance of never being afraid of change. Furthermore, WAC 2023 continued SPRINT, our entrepreneurial pitch competition, and had on-site external press for the first time since Edward Snowden’s online appearance at WAC in 2015.

We also received a personal video message from Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, who addressed the importance of global medical and humanitarian equality, especially within crisis.

Feedback from attending schools and students gave us insight into the level of success the conference had in its return to a post-pandemic world. Through WAC 2023, we hope we have inspired others at UCC and Branksome Hall to involve themselves in the conference next year to push new boundaries and create discussion.
The word experience The UCC Difference