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5 Most Powerful Moments of the 2016 Global Citizen Festival

Saturday night wasn’t just about dancing.

The Global Citizen Festival drew 60,000 fans to Central Park with a larger purpose, and global leaders and luminaries including Michelle Obama, Queen Rania, Nancy Pelosi, Salma Hayek Pinault, and Jada Pinkett Smith all asked Global Citizens at the festival and those watching the concert at home to take specific actions to help end poverty, create more opportunities for girls and women, create a more engaged citizenship around the world, and get emergency help to the millions of refugees in crises around the world.

It was truly world-changing. Check out the top five moments of “real change” from the GCF 2016.

5. Nancy Pelosi Calls on Global Citizens to Drive Change Through Voting

U.S. House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) congratulated Global Citizens on their role in helping to create the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to help end poverty and hunger, eradicate disease, protect our planet, and empower girls and women to succeed, but she also called on them to act even more boldly going forward.   

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“These goals exist because of Global Citizen and because of you,” she said. “My call to action for you tonight is to know your power, to know your power to drive change, to know your power to advance the vision of a more just and sustainable world, to know the power to spread your dreams, to know the power of your dreams and then to spread them to others to stand with us in these shared goals.”

“Yours are voices that must be heard, yours is a vote that must be counted. Global Citizens, let us vote, and tonight let us dance,” she said.

4. Queen Rania of Jordan Announces First #EducationCannotWait Investments for Chad, Syria, and Yemen

Jordan’s Queen Rania has long been a staunch advocate of education, and on Saturday night, she asked Global Citizens to join her in the Education Cannot Wait campaign, pressuring the world’s wealthiest nations to immediately increase educational opportunities for the children caught in the refugee crisis.

“Today I’m proud to announce the first Education Cannot Wait investments will be made in areas of the greatest need, including $42 million to give nearly 1.5 million children in Chad, Syria, and Yemen access to a quality education over the next two years,” she said.

“Let’s put all the willpower here today to work and give every girl and boy a lesson in hope and humanity. Let’s open classroom doors to them wherever they are. It’s time for more leaders to step up, welcome refugees, and help keep children in school and learning. It’s the right thing to do,” she said.  

3. Salma Hayek, Jada Pinket Smith, and filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy Call for an Immediate End to Honor Killings

As part of Global Citizen and CHIME FOR CHANGE's campaigning efforts to Level the Law for girls and women worldwide, Salma Hayek Pinault, Co-Founder of CHIME FOR CHANGE, and Jada Pinkett Smith, CHIME FOR CHANGE Advisory Board member, rallied the Global Citizen audience to call for immediate change to women’s inequality in countries around the world. They shared stories of women being barred from seeing doctors without their husband’s approval and for being murdered by their families in so-called “honor killings” for refusing to enter into arranged marriages or making their own decisions. They brought on stage Academy Award-winning filmmaker and director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, a CHIME FOR CHANGE Advisory Board member. Obaid-Chinoy premiered her powerful short film, narrated by Madonna, on Pakistani social media star Qandeel Baloch, who was killed by her brother earlier this year.

“That’s why it’s important for all governments to investigate and record all killings, suicides, and disappearances of women that are taking place, and to ensure that there are laws to punish these killers,” Obaid-Chinoy said. “I think all of us need to to honor the women who have been killed whose names we do not know by calling on all governments to punish all killers of women. The world that we want to leave our girls and our daughters must be much safer than the world we have inherited.”

2. Michelle Obama Asks Global Citizens to Join International Day of the Girl and to #LetGirlsLearn

The First Lady sent a special video message to this year’s Global Citizen Festival, saying that last year, she asked everyone at the 2015 festival to join her in raising awareness about the issue of schooling for the 60 million girls worldwide who are not enrolled in school.

“This year I’m asking you to take the next step and actually take action to help these girls learn,” she told the Global Citizens this year.

Obama asked everyone to go to LetGirlsLearn.gov to find actions they could take to support educational opportunities for girls, and then to share their actions on social media ahead of the International Day of the Girl on Oct. 11, when the White House will host a livestream conversation with girls around the world.

“These girls are counting on us to be their champions and I intend to keep using my voice to speak out on their behalf — not just for the rest of my time in the White House but for the rest of my life i hope that all of you will join me,” she said.

1. Ambassador Samantha Power & Syrian Swimming Refugee Sarah Mardani, Sudanese Model Alek Wek, and Brendan Cox Call on Countries to Accept Refugees

In what may have been the evening’s most powerful moment, two extraordinary refugee women — Syrian refugee Sarah Mardani, who pushed a boat of 20 refugees to shore while swimming, and Sudanese model Alek Wek — told their stories on stage alongside Brendan Cox, the widower of the British Member of Parliament and refugee advocate Jo Cox who was assassinated in June.

The three appeared on stage to tell their stories and call on the world to do more for refugees, as US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said that governments and citizens both need to do more to ensure that refugees are accepted into countries around the world and given opportunities. She also introduced 6-year-old Alex, an American boy who asked President Obama to bring a Syrian refugee boy to his home to live, and whose letter has helped “compassion go viral,” as Power put it.