US President Urges Youth Leaders to Make a Difference in Region

Photo: AP President of the United States, Barack Obama (left), greets Kimala Bennett (third left), on arrival at the Town Hall meeting for youth leaders at the University of the West Indies, Mona, on April 9. Looking on are Youth leaders, Brian Lumley (second left) and Senator Imani Duncan Price (fourth left)

Story Highlights

  • President of the United States, Barack Obama, has encouraged Jamaican youth leaders to continue to use their energy and dynamism to make a difference in the region.
  • Speaking at a Young Leaders Town Hall meeting at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, in Kingston, on April 9, the President spoke of his belief in the ability of the youth to drive growth and development in the region.
  • The President informed that more than one hundred million people in Latin America and the Caribbean are between 15 and 24 years of age and that most in the region are under 35 years.

President of the United States, Barack Obama, has encouraged Jamaican youth leaders to continue to use their energy and dynamism to make a difference in the region.

Speaking at a Young Leaders Town Hall meeting at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, in Kingston, on April 9, the President spoke of his belief in the ability of the youth to drive growth and development in the region.

“I believe we can move past some of the old debates that so often define the region and move forward in a way that benefits your generation with new thinking…an energetic, impatient, dynamic and diverse generation that you represent, both in the US and across the hemisphere” he said.

The President informed that more than one hundred million people in Latin America and the Caribbean are between 15 and 24 years of age and that most in the region are under 35 years.

“What gives me so much hope about your generation is that you are more interested in the hard work of waging peace than resorting to the quick impulses of conflict. You’re more interested in the hard work of prosperity by building entrepreneurship, not cronyism or corruption” he continued.

The President congratulated the young leaders for caring “less about the world as it has been and more about the world as it should be and can be.”

“Unlike any other time in our history, the technology at your disposal means that you don’t have to wait for the change that you’re looking for. You have the freedom to create it in your own powerful and disruptive ways. Many of you already have, whether by starting your own enterprises or by helping others start theirs,” he said.

During his short speech, the President, who was very complimentary of the young leaders, singled out what he termed two remarkable young leaders who were in the audience – Angeline Jackson and Jerome Cowans. He had high praises for both young leaders who had overcome significant odds to start advocacy organizations.

In an interview with JIS News, Mr. Cowans, who is Director of Leaders Endeavouring for Adolescents Development (LEAD) Youth Club, said the recognition was a great experience.

“It was very humbling and it just goes to show that hard work definitely does pay off, so my message to other persons is to just continue the fight. He was in a similar situation and he continued and now he is the President of the United States. So, yes we can as well. It’s a big push for me. I will definitely continue within my youth organization to help others. It has been very motivational,” he said.

Mr. Cowans, who grew up in a tough part of Kingston, witnessed a friend’s murder at the age of 12 and made a decision not to follow the path of the shooters. He founded a youth group at the age of 13 to help others like himself to stay on the right path.

The President noted that the young man who started his organization with just six persons, who all believed that change was possible, was threatened for his work but kept at it.

The LEAD Youth Club  now has six  chapters, including  one in Columbia, and his work has taken him to five continents.

Last year, Mr. Cowans, who is 25 years old, became the first Jamaican to receive the Nelson Mandela Innovation Award.

The President said that persons, such as Jerome, remind him of something Bob Marley once said – “the people who are trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off. Why should I?”.

President Obama was referring to an incident in the 1970s when  the noted  Reggae  singer  was shot while preparing to perform at  a  peace concert to  bring  political factions together.

After he was shot, someone asked him if he was still going to  perform, to which Mr. Marley replied  as  the President quoted.

JIS Social