Counselor for Public Affairs Roberto Quiroz II’s Remarks at YALI 2018 Welcome Reception

Counselor for Public Affairs Roberto Quiroz II delivering remarks at the Welcome reception for YALI 2018 Cohorts

Counselor for Public Affairs Roberto Quiroz II’s Remarks

at Welcome Reception in Honor of the

2018 Ghana Cohort of Mandela Washington Fellows

Marriott Hotel, Accra, October 11, 2018, 1:30-2:00 p.m.

Distinguished 2018 Mandela Washington Fellows,

Mandela Washington Fellows alumni present here today,

Members of the media,

Honored guests,


Akwaaba! It’s an honor to join you here this afternoon to formally welcome you home to Ghana from the United States.  This year, 33 of you were selected among thousands of candidates who applied for this very competitive program.

You are now part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).  The extraordinary talents you have demonstrated will greatly contribute to this special fellowship.

The program, as you know, is named after two leaders whose lives embodied the very foundational values and future of their respective nations.  George Washington and Nelson Mandela saw the people as the foundation for conceiving their countries’ democracies.  They offer us still today a reminder on the awesome burden and a privilege of leadership.

The examples set by Mandela and Ghana highlight the successes and promise of democracy.

Nelson Mandela’s life story also teaches us about the power of resilience.  Everyone wants, needs, and deserves a better life.  As the YALI program envisions, African challenges require African solutions, and those can mainly come from each of you as citizens and visionary young leaders.

All nations face challenges and opportunities, including the United States.  We should consider Madiba’s spirit and his message that each person can make a positive and lasting difference.  That all great journeys begin with a dream.

Much has been said on the question of how to combat unemployment in Ghana.  Yet America’s constant message and belief is the importance of continuing to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of all citizens.  When Ghanaian young men and women in all ten regions conceive a business idea, they must be encouraged to follow their dreams in establishing it without red tapes and obstacles.  Each entrepreneur has the potential to create jobs which are needed by a young population facing the challenges of unemployment after finishing high school or university.

Citizens must celebrate the successes of others because when one wins, we all win.  Governments cannot create enough jobs to employ a growing youth bulge.  A dynamic, free, and growing private sector can offer those critical employment opportunities for young people to apply their talents and ambitions to build this nation and sustain their families and communities.  Jobs from Ghanaians for Ghanaians.

The creative genius of people like Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and others can also be found right here in Ghana.  Somewhere out there today may be a child who will invent new forms of communication, water irrigation and farming methods that will make Ghana a food exporter, perhaps even the first Ghanaian to lead your space program into the far corners of the universe, and with it greater knowledge for humankind.

The United States of America and the Republic of Ghana are joined in both our challenges and opportunities.  If Ghana succeeds, America and the world indeed succeed.

With partners like you, we are committed to promote stronger trade and commercial ties between the United States and Africa by establishing a level playing field across African markets.  We believe the youth in Ghana and the continent are a force for economic ingenuity and prosperity, and we reaffirm that the United States has an unwavering commitment to Ghana and to Africa.

There are no limits to dreams, and we recognize great achievements don’t just present themselves, they must be worked for with tremendous sacrifices.  But the wind sustaining your dreams is your belief in yourselves and the unlimited potential of this nation.  It is that spirit of optimism which contributed to your selection among many candidates to become a Mandela Washington Fellow.

We hope that you enjoyed a great fellowship in the United States.  Make sure to keep in contact with the people you met through this program.  You never know where they will be ten or twenty years from now, and they don’t know where you will be either!

We are proud of you for taking on those and so many other causes centered on empowering youth, women, and girls to truly promote development through the power of their own ideas and efforts.  America stands with you in pursuing those noble causes, and we believe in you.  

Finally, thanks for your service.  The building of tomorrow begins today, and it begins with you. The hard work of promoting democracy and prosperity requires participants, not spectators.

As was said when YALI was created, “you are the change you’ve been waiting for.”  Thank you!