Local students hear from former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev

By Ben Mast
Contributor

On Tuesday, October 30, around thirty students from Rainy River High School and S.C.A.P. left very early in the morning and journeyed to Winnipeg, Manitoba for an event called We Day.
Founded by Craig and Mark Kielburger, We Day is an initiative of the Free The Children charity, founded to promote unity, both locally, and globally as well.
We heard many speakers, from the premier of Manitoba, Greg Selinger, to Spencer West, a man who lost his legs at the age of 5. He recently scaled Africa’s tallest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro, to raise awareness, and money for clean water projects in Africa.
Various musical artists performed as well, including the famous Shawn Desman, Victoria Duffield, Lights, and as a finale to the amazing day, Allstar Weekend.
The highlight of the day, though, was listening to an incredible speech from former president of the U.S.S.R., Mikhail Gorbachev. In strands of Russian, translated into English, we learned firsthand about the infamous Cold War, which raged on from 1947 to 1991.
One of the most alarming things we discovered was that, at the height of the Cold War, there were over 100,000 nuclear weapons between both sides, each one capable of destroying a city around the size of Winnipeg.
In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev and former U.S. president Ronald Reagan met in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss peace. Despite opposition from many, both men boldly took a stand, and signed a treaty that brought an end to the seemingly endless cache of nuclear weapons that both countries had amassed.
We are greatly indebted to this man, and we all may, in a sense, owe him our lives. Many have viewed him as only a “commie”, but he is much more than that.
Through “perestroika”, or “social reform”, he was a huge part of tearing down the communist dictatorships of Lenin and Stalin. His original plan was just to reform the communist system, while still keeping the bulk of it in place. But, once he started his nation’s move to democracy, it could not be stopped.
Throughout his political career, he was stuck between a proverbial “rock and a hard place”. The hard-line members of the communist party staged a coup against him and his reform of their “perfect” system, while the Russian people, on the other hand, launched a revolution that ultimately granted them their greatest wish, freedom from tyrannical rule.
Mikhail Gorbachev is considered by many to be the most important politician ever. Although many of his ethics differ from mine, he worked tirelessly to bring about peace, and who knows what our world might look like today without his life.
Mikhail Gorbachev is a man who has made an undeniable impression upon our world, and to hear him speak was truly incredible.
Toward the end of his speech, he made a statement that I hope I will never forget. He said, “[Throughout my life,] I wanted to do good, rather than doing well.” And may that be a mantra for us all as we journey through this life.