Thank you Bedis for the warm welcome and introduction;
My thanks as well to the GOT officials who are here, Majdouline Cherni Minister of Youth and Sports, and Saida Ounissi, Secretary of State in charge of Vocational Training and Entrepreneurship
And to the facilitators, mentors, university partners and Georgetown for coordinating this event;
Good afternoon to all of the Student Leaders,
I am thrilled to have been invited to the closing session of this conference, which brings you together to finalize your plans for civic engagement in your home communities. We are proud of what you have accomplished so far, and look forward to hearing about what you will do in the weeks and years to come. The U.S. government proudly supports MEPI’s Student Leaders program, and welcomes this year’s alumni into the fold.
You now have the opportunity to take the values that you believe in, and which were the focus of your experience in the United States, back to your home communities. Each of you is best placed to implement those ideals, because you know your home better than anyone else. I understand how challenging it can be to represent these values in this part of the world, and I respect your commitment to finding a way to bring abstract values into concrete reality.
The practical result of your efforts will vary by country and by community, and it will be up to you to set realistic goals and navigate the unique environment you will face. Every country is different, and there is no cookie cutter approach. Even the United States has zigzagged at times in the perfection of our own democracy. Many pundits and analysts see young people in this region as a threat, or a demographic and employment problem to be solved. But I believe you are a resource and an opportunity. We are counting on you to stay active and to stay connected, with us and with each other, to ensure that the learning process continues.
This conference takes place in the same week as International Women’s Day, and I see that we have excellent female representation in this room. I have to say, through most of my career working in the Middle East, I have noticed women leaving the men in the dust! You should be proud of the dynamic work that women are doing, and although that may look different from country to country, never stop trying to improve the world you live in, no matter how creative you may have to be to do so.
Finally, I hope that you leave this program knowing that you are the opportunity. You are the embodiment of the values of this program. And you are the hope of your country.
Presentation of Certificate:
Moving on to a fun note, I am proud to announce that Embassy Tunis’ MEPI office received a record number of applications from across Tunisia in the most recent application cycle, the highest number since the launch of the program. This year, we received more than 560 applications for the 2017 MEPI Student Leaders program, about five times as many as our previous average! Many of the Tunisian alumni helped to promote the program., and one in particular had an extensive reach. She helped us attract more applicants to the program by using her social media skills to spread the word about the Student Leaders experience, and her name was mentioned repeatedly in the applications as a source of information. Thus, on this occasion, I would like to give this certificate of appreciation to Ons Hammami to thank her for her outreach efforts in the recruitment process.
Ons, please come forward to receive your certificate.