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Words for Change: Yale students join global call to launch a new humanism

May 15, 2024

Yale faculty and students respond to a call for ideas by renowned Italian singer-songwriter Giovanni Caccamo, for a global book project on the power of youth to drive positive change.

Each one has a story, has a past and can create a future that can help us to understand who we are. Only together we can do something special in our lives, and we are not alone.

Giovanni Caccamo

It was on the evening of December 11, 2023, at the Yale Club in New York City, when Yale Professors in the Child Study Center James F. Leckman and Kyle D. Pruett, first met renowned Italian artist-songwriter Giovanni Caccamo, who together with his colleagues from the Andrea Bocelli Foundation, had just presented to member states at the United Nations Secretariat on the success of their global programs to benefit children in need and to empower youth through words and music. Dr. Pruett, tenor soloist and former Yale Whiffenpoof, shared that he and the All-City Children’s Choir of New Haven, under the direction of the Yale School of Music’s Music in Schools Initiative (MISI), had recently performed “Seeds of Peace”, song of hope and anthem of the Early Childhood Peace Consortium (ECPC), a global network, co-founded by Drs. Leckman, Pruett, and others on how investment in Early Childhood Development (ECD) can lead to more peaceful societies. But, it was Caccamo’s story about his life long passion for music and his youth advocacy project Manifesto for Change – Youth and Future that sparked the professors' interest and desire to learn more.

It all began in 2021 ...

... when Caccamo released his concept album “Parola”, a musical response to a call by notable Italian writer Andrea Camilleri, whose growing concern for the future compelled him to call upon youth to elicit a new humanism through the value of words. Each track in the album is an interpretation in music and word of a well-known poem or text from literature, featuring collaborations with globally renowned artists Patti Smith, Willem Dafoe, Jesse Paris Smith, and others.

Yet, Caccamo felt the need to take Camilleri's call beyond the stage. In collaboration with the Vatican Museums and MAXXI - National Museum of XXI Century Arts, he launched the advocacy project Voices to the Young in 2022. He called for ideas from a diverse group of young people in Italy to compose and submit essays in response to two roll calls, “What do you want to change in the society in which you live and how? What is your word for change?”

Of the thousands of submissions received, Caccamo selected 60 of the most inspirational essays that were published in the volume "Manifesto del cambiamento" in 2023, which includes works by masters in visual art, along with a preface by Pope Francis, “Letter to Young People”. Fifteen top essay winners joined him in an artistic performance inside Raffaello’s Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican Museums, to discuss change and the future, juxtaposed against the famous School of Athens fresco, a gathering of ancient philosophers, mathematicians, and scientists. (See "Summary: Manifesto for Change).

But Caccamo felt compelled to take Camilleri's call further still, to the world stage. On April 5, 2024, he launched a global version of the book project at the Change the World Model UN NYC that called together 5,000 youth advocates from around the world. In his speech, he issued a global call for ideas to young people from all religions, cultures, gender identities, and social backgrounds to build the "Manifesto for Change", a global book that will collect the stories, the longings, and the outlooks of the new generations.

It was then that Professors Leckman and Pruett invited Caccamo to visit with them at Yale, to meet with ECPCs new Youth Group Chair/Yale student Kyle King, and to lead a Manifesto for Change - Youth and Future workshop to which the youth community at Yale could participate.

In conversation with Yale student Kyle King and Giovanni Caccamo on “Youth and Future - Manifesto for Change”

I'd like to think that the younger generations are going to be tomorrow's leaders, and that they definitely need a chance to have a say in what tomorrow looks like.

Kyle King

Filmed on April 17 in the Harvey Cushing Historical Library of rare books in the Yale School of Medicine, Yale student Kyle King, and guest Giovanni Caccamo, engaged in a captivating and inspiring conversation on the capacity of youth to elicit a new humanism to drive positive change.

King’s inquisitiveness prompted Caccamo to share the story of his passion for music and the arts that stem from personal experiences, including the loss of his father at a young age. After much introspection and soul-searching during adolescence, his grief became gratitude and the appreciation for the preciousness of his life, a daily practice. Caccamo encourages young people to reflect on the positive aspects of their lives. He emphasizes the power of collaboration and the need for intergenerational dialogue in shaping a brighter future.

The conversation ends on a high note with Caccamo’s a cappella performance of "Change", the English version of “Il Cambiamento”, the Manifesto for Change signature song of youth empowerment, and message of hope for global transformation.

[Also available on Apple Podcast - ECPCs Pathways to Peace: "ECPCs Kyle King interviews Giovanni Caccamo—Youth & Future: Manifesto for Change"]

Workshop on the “Manifesto for Change: Youth and Future”

I'm asking all Yale students and youth, all special souls to reflect on some aspects in your society that you want to change, or something that you want to paint in a new way. And try to open your heart, your soul to other people and to share the more intimate part of your life with others.

Giovanni Caccamo

On the evening of April 18 in the historic Dwight Chapel in Yale’s Old Campus, an intimate group of professors, students, and friends participated in Caccamo’s workshop Manifesto for Change – Youth and Future”. Youth from the audience were invited to the podium to share their essays with the group to encourage thoughtful discussions among participants, Yale’s own School of Athens.

Caccamo then encouraged the circle of participants to share their words for change. Words like "gratitude", "sentimentality", "stability", "friendship", "love", "admiration", and "birth"" filled the chapel, and more followed.

Caccamo gave an a cappella star performance of song “L'ombra della luce” by his legendary mentor, the late Franco Battiato. He concluded the evening event with “Change”, song of hope and inspiration that reverberated within the stone walls of the chapel, and beyond.

The new group of friends proceeded out through the large wooded doors of the chapel onto the lawn of the courtyard, anxious to write essays. As they greeted passersby, they noticed that their smiles ... were contagious.

► Discover and submit your essay to Manifesto for Change by July 30, 2024 for a chance to be published. (Students - submit via your university email account.)

Essay: "Stability"

Excerpt from "Youth and Future" essay by Laya Jalilian-Khave M.D.—Postdoctoral Fellow, Yale Neuroimaging Sciences Training Program in Substance Abuse, Yale University School of Medicine. Courtesy of author. (In submission)

I had never seen that many dandelions in one sight ever before. I was walking with my friend’s 4-year-old daughter Anna, through the suburbs of Tehran, Iran, when we got to a hill whitened with dandelions. “What is this?” she asked in awe. “The land of dreams!” I replied on top of my mind. “What does it mean?” she asked. “You can make wishes and blow them into the wind as much as you want.” I said. “Like, till forever?” she asked. “Till forever!” I affirmed, although the words weighed heavy on my tongue as I said it. How long had it been since the last time I had wished, just for the sake of wishing, without calculating the obstacles, the costs, or the time?

But Anna started giggling as she ran among the dandelions. “Come join me!”, she laughed. I lost my thread of thoughts while following her, trusting that she had life much better figured out that me, in all the past four years we had together. Anna was not aware of any limitations owing to her. Neither was I, but then for only a few minutes.

And there it was, in those moments, the gift of childhood, its essence at its purest, something so easy to forget, yet so hard to remember. And yes, dandelions can grow almost anywhere, on any green piece of God’s land, through stones, on mountains, and in cracks in the streets and walls. So can wishes, most especially, hopes for change. But even dandelions cannot survive when the ground beneath them is shaking endlessly ... and so, cannot wishes, many of them.

And so, my word for change is: Stability.

Laya Jalilian-Khave, M.D.


Kyle King is a Yale University student who serves as Chair of the Youth Initiative at the Early Childhood Peace Consortium (ECPC). He is National Advocate for the International OCD Foundation, and former member of UNICEFs Global Youth Advocate and USA National Council. His interests include early childhood development and its importance to youth and future parents around the globe.

Giovanni Caccamo is an Italian virtuoso, award winning singer-songwriter who was discovered in 2012 by acclaimed Italian singers Franco Battiato and Caterina Caselli. His collaborations with international artists include Willem Dafoe, Andrea Bocelli, Patti Smith, Franco Battiato, Elisa, and many others. He has released five studio albums to date, including “Parola” from which his book project "Manifesto for Change | Youth and Future", is based.

The Early Childhood Peace Consortium (ECPC) is a global movement of United Nations agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations, academia, practitioners, and the private sector focused on sharing scientific and practice-based evidence on how investment in early childhood development (ECD) can contribute to sustainable peace, social cohesion, and social justice. We recognize that investing in ECD is a powerful and cost-effective strategy for reducing violence, poverty, and exclusion and for building peaceful societies.

The ECPC is powered by working groups on Research Science, Policy and Advocacy, Program Development and Evaluation, Youth Mentorship, and Public Relations and Media Communications.

Acknowledgements: Professors Leckman and Pruett extend their gratitude to the librarians at the Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library, and staff from Dwight Hall and the Yale Broadcast Studio.

Submitted by Nancy Shemrah Fallon on May 15, 2024