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Youth, Students, and Educators: Remarks at the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Civic Education Workshop

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Ambassador Galt.

On behalf of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, welcome to the U.S. Department of State. This is my first event with YES students, and I am pleased that it is taking place during the program’s 15th anniversary year.

I would like to express my appreciation to all those who worked so hard to make this workshop possible – American Councils, the American Civics Center, and the Youth Programs staff here at the Department of State.

Most importantly, I want to congratulate all of the students here today for taking the brave step of leaving their homes, families, and friends to come to the United States. Whether you joined the YES program to seek new experiences, gain a wider perspective on the world, or have the chance to see the U.S. with your own eyes, the spirit of adventure you demonstrated is a sure sign of the great things we know you will accomplish in the future.

Looking around this room, I see the future leaders of your communities and countries – in business, government, law, science, academia, the arts – in whatever field you choose.

For examples of the diverse and impressive paths that YES alumni have chosen, we need look no further than the three amazing alumni mentors who are spending this week with you. I would like to ask each of them to stand up.

Mariyam Suleman, a 2012 YES alum, founded an English-language center for girls in her home province in Pakistan and also wrote an award-winning book about her YES experience called “Come! Let’s Discover a New Way.”

Mohamad Jamal discovered a passion for chemistry while on the YES program in 2008 and is now a science teacher in Lebanon while he studies for his Ph.D. He is also a leader among YES alumni in sponsoring projects for orphans, children with disabilities, and the elderly.

Muawi Adamu – also part of the 2008 YES cohort -- was inspired by his host mother to become a doctor once he returned to Nigeria and to organize free screening programs for HIV, diabetes, hypertension, and other health issues. He also led an interactive peace workshop for youth in Nigeria following violence in 2011.

Each of you has my admiration for the work you are doing and for serving as an inspiration for other YES alumni and for young people around the world.

For all of the YES participants here today, your role as citizen ambassadors also has a direct impact in your U.S. host communities, where you are sharing your culture, customs, and points of view with Americans, many of whom may never have a chance to travel abroad. For instance, during International Education Week this past November, YES students made nearly 4,600 cultural presentations in 530 host communities to more than 125,000 Americans. Through these efforts, you are helping to dispel misconceptions about your countries, just as your experience here, I hope, has countered some of the skewed images of the United States you may have encountered on television, in movies, and online.

After this workshop, I am sure you will return to your host communities across America energized by all you have seen and done here in Washington. Then, after you return to your home countries at the end of your program, I look forward to hearing about all the great things you are accomplishing using the new skills and knowledge you gained while in the United States.

Congratulations on joining the community of nearly 11,000 YES alumni who are leading change in their home communities!

Now, I would be very pleased to hear what questions you might have.

Distribution channels: Education

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