BTS arrives at the American Music Awards at the Microsoft Theater on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
BTS became the first K-pop group to speak at the United Nations on Sept. 24, in an effort to empower young people.
The septet arrived at the U.N. for the launch of Generation Unlimited, a campaign “to ensure every young person is in education, training or employment by 2030.” The event featured speakers like YouTube personality and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Lilly Singh.
Leader RM took to the mic, flanked by his six fellow members — Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook.
During the speech, RM got personal by touching on his journey to self-actualization in the face of struggles. “I tried to jam myself into the other molds that other people made,” he said. “Soon, I began to shut out my own voice and listen to the voice of others. No one called out my name and neither did I. My heart stopped and my eyes closed shut. Like this, I—we—all lost our names. We became like ghosts. But I had one sanctuary, and that was music.”
The rapper also referenced the hardships BTS faced when they started out as underdogs in the industry. “Even after making the decision to join BTS, there were a lot of hurdles,” he said. “Some people might not believe but most people thought we were hopeless, and sometimes I just wanted to quit.”
But even after becoming a global superstar, the 24-year-old has still worked to accept all versions of himself. “Yesterday’s me is still me,” he said. “Today I am who I am with all of my faults and my mistakes. Tomorrow I might be a tiny bit wiser and that would be me too. These faults and mistakes are what I am, making up the brightest stars in the constellation of my life. I have come to love myself for who I am, for who I was, and for who I hope to become.”
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Toward the end of the speech, RM introduced a new step to the group’s familiar “love yourself” refrain: “speak yourself.”
“I want to hear your voice,” he said. “I want to hear your conviction. No matter where you’re from, skin color, gender identity, just speak yourself. Find your name [and] find your voice.”
The speech went viral as the hashtag #BTSxUnitedNations trended worldwide on Twitter for several hours.
Over the years, BTS has built a reputation as one of the most socially conscious groups in Korea. Their lyrics have touched on subjects like mental illness, consumerism and issues in the school system. In November 2017, the group partnered with UNICEF for an anti-violence campaign called “Love Myself.”
In July, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore thanked BTS and ARMY for raising $1 million for UNICEF’s campaign to end violence against children and young people. “The LOVE MYSELF campaign is proof that young people around the world can come together and make a difference,” she said in a video message to the group. “From your music to your messages to your donations, you’ve shown the power of kindness.”
BTS is in the middle of the North America leg of BTS World Tour: Love Yourself. They’ll become the first K-pop group to play a stadium show when they hit New York City’s Citi Field on Oct. 6. They’ll also tape performances for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Good Morning America this week.