Everyday Heroes: Beyoncé and United Nations World Humanitarian Day

Essential Question

How might Beyoncé's song “I Was Here” inspire people to serve their community and make a positive impact on the world?

Overview

In August 2012, Beyoncé released the song “I Was Here” and an accompanying video in support of the United Nations’ “World Humanitarian Day.” The event aims to celebrate the thousands of people who perform “heroic” acts around the world each year. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres describes the annual observance as an opportunity to “shine a spotlight on the millions of civilians around the world whose lives have been caught up in conflict… [As well as] the brave health and aid workers who are targeted or obstructed as they set out to help people in need.”

Guterres casts a wide net–the “heroes” honored by World Humanitarian Day are many. Indeed, the goal of World Humanitarian Day is to encourage people to think beyond official titles of service and empower everyone to be a hero. The theme of the event, which is displayed in a slide during the opening seconds of the “I Was Here” video, encourages all to embrace the nearly limitless possibilities of selflessness and service:

One day, one message, one goal.

To inspire people all over the world to do something good,

no matter how big or how small, for someone else

Beyoncé’s official World Humanitarian Day Performance Video is set in front of an audience at the United Nations General Assembly hall, and the singer performs in the midst of a stunning multimedia array of images of people in conflict. The viewer sees the elongated shadow of the pop star cast across vignettes of desperate people queuing for water at a relief truck, starving children receiving a mouthful of non-descript vittles, and aid workers in war-torn areas holding children that cannot be their own whilst fighting back tears. Meanwhile, Beyoncé sings composer Diane Warren’s lyrics:

I just want them to know

That I gave my all, did my best

Brought someone some happiness

Left this world a little better just because, I was here

Though indirect, “I Was Here” is intended to inspire action, to encourage millions of Beyoncé fans to become everyday “heroes” who ask, “what good can I do for someone else, no matter how big or small? How can I make the world a better place?”

In this lesson, students will learn a basic history of the United Nations, consider what might make a “hero,” and explore how Beyoncé’s, “I Was Here” and the United Nations World Humanitarian Day might inspire individuals to heroic acts.

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Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will:

  1. Know (knowledge):
    • What the United Nations is
    • About United Nations World Humanitarian Day
    • The definition of “hero” as well as various concepts of what makes a person “heroic”
    • How Beyoncé’s song “I Was Here” was used in collaboration with World Humanitarian Day
    • How music can be used to convey a positive message
  2. Mastery Objective:
    • Students will be able to discuss the definition of “hero” and consider how Beyoncé’s “I Was Here” might act as a call to action through analysis of its lyrics and video