As Prepared For Delivery | August 4, 2015 | Gaborone
Thank you all for coming to watch President Obama’s town hall meeting with five hundred 2015 Mandela Washington Fellows. As part of President Obama’s Young African Leadership Initiative – or YALI – thirteen extremely talented young Batswana leaders are in the audience at the town hall meeting. They travelled to Washington D.C. for a three-day Presidential Summit, which will conclude their six week academic and leadership program at U.S. universities. Over the past six weeks, Fellows have networked with leaders in the U.S. government, civil society, and private sector.
We are very proud of our Mandela Washington Fellows, who represent some of Botswana’s most talented and accomplished young leaders. They inspire us with their commitment to addressing issues critical to Botswana’s future development, including combatting gender based violence, promoting conservation, and eradicating HIV/AIDS.
They will soon be applying what they learned through the program to better Botswana. They will partner with the 2014 Mandela Washington Fellows by joining the Botswana YALI Network, a registered nonprofit organization that coordinates YALI alumni projects. The 2015 Fellows will assist the 2014 Fellows in carrying out current projects by holding capacity-building workshops to empower teachers with leadership skills and by engaging in a program that provides mentorship and guidance to young entrepreneurs.
The 2015 Mandela Washington Fellows will also develop their own projects to empower youth. They will establish a National Youth Week and address issues that concern young people. The Fellows will also hold quarterly Networking and Mentoring Forums across Botswana to mentor young people and encourage them to express their concerns and goals. Fellows will establish a Wi-Fi enabled “YALI Park” in Gaborone, where they will hold events to help youth network and gain leadership skills. Finally, they will create and maintain a Botswana YALI Network Twitter account to further involve youth in their projects.
The U.S. government is committed to helping Mandela Washington Fellows accomplish what they strive to achieve. The U.S. government will work with the private sector, the Government of Botswana, and civil society to create professional opportunities and find resources to support these young leaders.
I am inspired by our Botswana Fellows’ motivation, creativity, and vision for Botswana. They will receive a certificate for being a YALI fellow. They must prove the value of it every day. In courts, in corporate boardrooms, on the streets of the towns and villages of this remarkable country. What is in their hands? Remember, in my country Rosa Parks changed the world with nothing but a bus ticket in her hand. In Sharpeville the world came to a halt because of young people who had nothing but burning passbooks in their hands. Surely they have more power in their hands. They are the most powerful generation that this world has ever known. In one hand, they will have a certificate that says they are indeed future leaders. In their other hand many have smartphones which concentrate more human capital than has ever been deployed in recorded history. What is in their hand? They might combine that certificate and smartphone and create a tool that completely changes the interface and accountability between civil society and government.
I urgently await their good deeds as the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellows return to Botswana and arrest the heavens.