© 2018 by The International Learning Foundation.


SUMMARY: In April 4-6, 1997, when there were 1000 days remaining before the start of the new millennium in 2000, the IFL sponsored a Youth Congress where teams of high school students were able to listen to the inspirational message of global elder, Dr. Robert Muller, former Assistant Secretary General of the UN,  to inspire them to become global citizens to take care of the Earth. The students planned Global Citizenship projects as part of the conference.

Each participant was given their own Passport to be a global citizen

Dr. Geraldine Schwartz, President of the IFL

Dr. Robert Muller, Barbara Gaughen Muller (media specialist), Janis Douglas (Librarian), Edith Wallace (singer)

The Vancouver Public Library


Global Citizenship 2000

Youth Congress

April 4-6, 1997

Of all the many events presented by the International Foundation of Learning and its community partners, none reached as far into community resources as the Youth Congress on Global Citizenship 2000.

This event was co-sponsored by

·       The Vancouver Public Library, led by Janice Douglas, Director of Youth Services and Community Relations

·       The Vancouver Film School, led by Executive Director, David Baker and Dana Morin, Director of Multimedia Studies

·       The Open Learning Agency, led by V.P. of Education and Television, Lucille Pacey

·       The Vancouver Multicultural Society of BC (host to 99 cultural communities in BC), led by Suzanne Strutt, Executive Director


The IFL coordinated and produced the event itself on April 4-6, 1997 in the beautiful concourse of the Vancouver Public Library and in the handsome meeting rooms on the first level.

The call for leadership went out early in 1997. The IFL promotions to leaders said:

“On April 6, 1997, the world will be 1,000 days away from the year 2000. What better time to launch a project to encourage our youth to see themselves as global citizens......what knowledge and values do they need to be guardians of life on this planet?

Appreciating that we are living at a time where we are witness to the birth of a global civilizations, the IFL and its community partners are hosting a youth congress called Global Citizenship 2000. The purpose is educational, cultural and social to consider the framework for introducing and promoting global education to the curriculum of our school.

The Congress will launch Millennium Projects that will grow over the next 1,000 days to January 1, 2000.”

The IFL invited Dr. Robert Muller, former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations during tenure of three Secretaries General. He was the major person responsible for developing the founding of 11 of the UN’s specialized agencies and he was creator of “The World Core Curriculum” (an educational curriculum for global citizenship already taught in 24 schools around the world named after him) to speak to the children. Dr. Muller, a true elder of 20th Century civilization was serving as the Chancellor of the United Nations University for Peace in Costa Rica.

The leaders of Vancouver’s educational and cultural communities responded. On April 4th, The Festival of Light was held before hundreds in the interior street of the Vancouver Public Library. A special stage and acoustic arrangements were built for this event. It featured high school choirs, The Universal Gospel Choir, Dancers from the Canadian Chinese, Indian and Israeli cultural communities, bands and theatre from others including hundreds of young performers.

On that first evening, Dr. Desmond Berghofer, Chairman of the IFL and producer of the event, and Dr. Geraldine Schwartz, conference coordinator, welcomed the audience. The young members of the Youth Congress teams marched into the concourse under their specially constructed banners and took their place in the audience. Conference singer Edith Wallace sang a specially written inspirational song called “The Planet We Call Home” and Dr. Robert Muller addressed the audience of leaders, citizens, volunteers, teachers, student teachers, performers, children and youth about their sacred duty as global citizens to look after the planet and Mother Earth.

Following the intermission, the Universal Gospel Choir performed, the Richmond high school team who had just returned from a peace project in Guatemala told their heart-touching story and the next day’s event was outlined by Dr. Desmond Berghofer. The music and excitement flooded the VPL concourse seven stories high, and the event was launched with hope and high expectations as the cameras from the CBC and the Vancouver Film School crew flooded the event with light and so recorded it for posterity.


Saturday, April 5, 1997

The next morning, 1,001 days before the year 2000, 14 teams of children and youth filed into the auditorium under their banners and behind their teacher leaders. Students from six Vancouver high schools, two Vancouver Island high schools billeted at local churches, two Vancouver elementary schools (grades 6 and 7), one private school, one environmental teen club, one team of 14 student teachers from SFU and a host team from the Vancouver Learning Centre made up the audience of 200+ young people and their teachers and parents.

The participants assembled in teams around round tables. Robert Muller gave a blazing, inspirational presentation, the last he was to give to children. He told the story of the planet in peril as if he were Mother Earth but telling story and fact of the status of the Earth from a global perspective. He mesmerized the children in front of him who had never heard such a story.

He then challenged them to go away and plan their projects to be presented in story, song and poster that afternoon.

The audience was taught Creative Learning’s process for creative thinking and planning called “Hold Fire and Think” and were sent to designated areas to plan their presentations.

That afternoon as each team presented their plan, we were inspired with laughter and tears by the creativity and the thoughtful and profoundly touching projects each team presented. The colourful Mind Maps of the plans encircled the room as they received heartfelt responses from the adults and finally, from Dr. Muller. The IFL would follow the teams over the next 1,000 days.
The students returned to the library concourse where the Festival of Light and the multicultural performers wound up the congress with music, song and dance from around the world.

The conference closed with a celebration song composed and sung by Edith Wallace and a rousing performance by the Klesmer Mombassa Band.


It was midnight.


Robert Muller took out his harmonica and played “Ode to Joy.” We welcomed the 1,000th day and the countdown began.

The Catalyst Forum: The Follow-up

The young people present at the youth congress emerged with beautiful passports that included contact numbers for the IFL and the names and contact information of their teams. The passport included new words for the song “This World is Your World” (to the tune of “This Land is Your Land” by Woodie Guthrie), that they sang together as the last 1,000 days began and included the wise, heartfelt worlds of Robert Muller, as the poem and core message he gave them at the Congress.


Decide to be a Global Citizen


A good inhabitant of the planet Earth

A member of the great human family

Pray, think, act, feel and love globally

And you will aggrandize yourself

to the outer limits of being

Know this planet
Love this planet
Care for this planet
For you come from Mother Earth

You are made of her elements

You are the Earth become conscious of herself
You are her eyes, her ears, her voice, her mind and her heart

Save your Mother Earth
from her matricidal children
who destroy her
who divide her
who spike her with Nuclear arms who hold their territories to be greater than the globe
and their groups
greater than humanity
Unite, global citizens, to save and heal planet Earth
And to make our Mother bloom again

As the most beautiful planet
in the universe.

—Robert Muller—


Many of the young people called and wrote to tell us how touched they were. Some, a grade 6-7 elementary school team, who rode with Dr. Muller in a car back to his hotel, promised they would carry out their millennium project....and they did....

About a year after the event, this school with many inner-city students called to ask Dr. Berghofer and Dr. Schwartz to participate in their school’s dedication of their “Bench of Dreams.”

The children had raised money using an Earth-friendly recycling project of collecting thousands of plastic pop bottles and cans filling their gymnasium to capacity. When they received the money from the recycling depot, they commissioned a former Principal and master carpenter-artist to create a magnificent cedar bench for their front lobby. The bench was labelled with the ‘Bench of Dreams’ plaque Dr. Muller had given them. It was furnished with the special pad and pencil to write and design their dreams and a pail of stones needed, according to Dr. Muller for the wishing process.

We were greeted at the door by the Global Citizenship Team, including the former grade 7 students who had returned from their high school classes. The whole school was assembled in the gymnasium, littlest ones in the front and the oldest at the back of the room. The magnificent bench was at the front. The whole school was hushed as the Principal commended them for their action. He noted the ways, big and small, they had already committed to, in the “Book of Dreams” as he invited Dr. Berghofer to speak. Dr. Berghofer invoked Dr. Muller’s instructions.

“Everybody was to close their eyes, stones for each hand were passed around one for

the pail – to keep the dream and one to take home to remind you to work on it.”


The student body visioned their dreams for helping others and the planet. They sang together and returned to their classrooms as the bench was respectfully placed in their front lobby.

It is hard to say what good projects and what attitudes were sensitized to the planet’s needs by these activities or by the pledges of the 14 student teachers to take Dr. Muller’s message to their future students, but one project does remain for posterity and will now be available worldwide as we post it on the IFL’s website for future distribution.


The proceedings of Global Citizenship 2000 were captured in a video entitled “When the earth still had 1000 Days.” This is an excerpt of the video: “When the Earth Still Had 1,000 Days."

It was funded as a follow-up by the IFL and made with the collaboration of the Vancouver Film School and the Open Learning Agency from the footage filmed at the Congress by film school volunteers and the CBC. It was written and produced by Dr. Desmond Berghofer.

The video features the children and youth who were present, the arts and culture they witnessed in music, songs and fellowship and especially the wise words to the children of Dr. Robert Muller.

For information about the full video and how it can be used to promote global citizenship projects in schools, contact Dr. Geraldine Schwartz at gerrischwartz@thevisioneers.ca.

The video was broadcast widely to the schools in BC in 1999 through our partner sponsors, the Open Learning Agency and the Knowledge Network. It was sent to the schools with the Facilitator’s Guide for Teachers, also sponsored by the IFL. In the guide, the video is divided into four segments of 12-15 minutes followed by activities which allows the students to participate as if they were Youth Congress participants themselves. This curriculum guide is also preserved for posterity and will be posted on the IFL website along with the film for future generations of teachers and students for whom the message and Dr. Muller’s wise counsel will remain fresh as long as our planet continues in peril.

Many other projects and activities followed the Congress; For example, a mother of five children, Jane McBride, was so touched by what she heard, she promised to follow through. The following year, her eldest son, Chris McBride, a member of the Vancouver Learning Centre Congress Team, was sent as an intern to Radio for Peace International on the campus of the University for Peace in Costa Rica where he could be directly mentored by Dr. Muller and his colleagues. He learned the ropes at the radio, broadcasting peace messages to the world in six languages. He helped build houses for impoverished people. Later, he completed a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Education in California where we expect he continues to find ways to spread the wisdom he learned from Dr. Muller.

Of course, these are just a few ways the important messages of the Youth Congress were spread by its participants.

It is important to note here that the follow-up was integrated with intention as part of the structure of the Catalyst Forum. It is the idea of the Catalyst Forum as a way to preserve and capture the good ideas presented in large events like Global Citizenship 2000, that may be the International Foundation of Learning’s greatest legacy.