Remarks by Keith Gilges, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Youth Ambassadors Program Alumni Seminar August 16, 2019

  • Rene Villanueva and Ms. Debbie Sewell of the Love Foundation,
  • Yvette Mazariegos, Belize Alumni Association,
  • And, most importantly, organizers and participants of the first ever Youth Ambassadors Program Alumni Seminar.

Good evening.

It gives me great pleasure to have the opportunity to join you here on this special occasion as we kick off Belize’s first Youth Ambassadors Program Alumni Seminar.

I am impressed by today’s turnout—thank you, the Love Foundation and Belize Alumni Association, for spearheading this important initiative.  As you might know, Belize joined the Youth Ambassadors Program 10 years ago, which means we have close to 80 program alumni across the country.  We have 30 alumni here tonight who represent several cohorts—thank you for being here.

Designed and administered by Georgetown University—and funded by the United States Government—the Youth Ambassadors Program has provided opportunities for dozens of Belizean youth to enhance leadership skills, understand and communicate across cultures, and develop impactful plans.  And these are not simply plans on a piece of paper—rather, I am referring to the plans you brought back to Belize and put into action.  As alumni who have experienced the impact of the program on your own lives, I know you share my pride in the work that has been done and that is yet to come.

Tonight, we are celebrating you—our alumni—and the opportunities that lie before you.  Those that strengthen your leadership skills and provide a platform for mentoring, networking, and sharing ideas to carry on the spirit of the program: to empower and inspire young leaders to positively impact their communities.  I challenge you to give back to your communities—and to encourage your peers to do so as well.  When you volunteer, the benefits go far beyond increasing your employability.  In the words of Oprah Winfrey, “To move forward, you have to give back.”  Indeed, when you give back to your community, you broaden your horizons, gain new experiences, and build relationships and networks that will benefit you—and your communities—throughout your lives.

Not only are you the future, but also—and more importantly—you shape the world we live in today.  You are on the front lines of social and economic transformation, influencing your communities and our world long before you are old enough to cast a ballot.  Humanity is better off if people of all ages are actively engaged in their civic duty, providing a diverse, well-rounded perspective to address the challenges that plague our society.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”

This is a tall order, one that requires astute leadership, long-term vision, endless flexibility, and creative teamwork.  I have no doubt that each of you can accomplish anything you set out to achieve.  But just imagine how much more you can accomplish by joining your efforts and working together.  The amount of talent, energy, and creativity we have in this room is more than enough to break new ground, expand horizons, and turn vision into reality.

I leave you with these words by famed American anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

It takes special kind of person to wake up every morning and decide to use their energy to make a difference for others, to spread understanding, and to improve their communities.  Having had the opportunity to serve as a Youth Ambassador doesn’t make you one of those special people.  Rather, these was that special energy that we recognized in each of you, and that is why you were chosen to serve as Youth Ambassadors.  Now use that energy to go change the world.

Thank you.  Enjoy the seminar!