Joint Induction/Graduation Ceremony of Kufuor Scholars
“Transforming Africa through Leadership with Integrity”
Remarks by U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Stephanie S. Sullivan
Monday, September 23, 2019 | 10:30am
His Excellency President John Agyekum Kufuor;
Chief Executive Officer of the John Agyekum Kufuor Foundation Professor Baffour Agyeman-Duah;
Kufuor Scholars Program Coordinator Dr. Pascal Brenya;
Kufuor Scholars; Alumni;
Family members and friends of Scholars;
Members of the media;
Ladies and Gentlemen,
All protocols and hashtags observed:
Thank you so much for inviting me to join today’s celebration,
where we mark two academic milestones on this observance of Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Day – the graduation of the Kufuor Scholars Cohort of 2019, and the induction of the program’s newest members, the Class of 2022. We’ve just heard from some inspiring representatives of each class.
As we all stand on the shoulders of our ancestors, let’s take a moment to express our gratitude to those who helped the Kufuor Foundation Scholars along the way! Since its inception, the John A. Kufuor Foundation has promoted practical and sustainable development in Ghana and on the continent of Africa.
I applaud the Foundation for transforming this vision into action, guiding the youth towards effective leadership, good governance, and to assume civic roles as champions of socio-economic development. The Scholars gathered today, representing many regions from this diverse nation, are those future leaders who will become lawyers, medical professionals, economists, engineers, professors, and diplomats. Maybe even a future President, and I wish him or her well!
The American actor Will Rogers said, “The farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn’t still be a farmer.” The same can be said of teachers and mentors working with young people and planting the seeds for tomorrow’s harvest.
Empowering youth is at the heart of the U.S.-Africa relationship. Across the continent, the United States partners with national and local governments, civil society organizations, and citizens from all walks of life to advance the mutually beneficial goals of prosperity, good governance, and long-term stability. Youth engagement is crucial in pursuit of these mutually reinforcing efforts.
For those who have just graduated, Ayikoo!
I encourage you to consider pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree program in the United States. Over 3,200 Ghanaian students studied at 630 American colleges and universities in the 2018-2019 academic year. Ghana is currently the third-highest sender of students from sub-Saharan Africa to the United States, after Kenya and Nigeria. We’d love to see those numbers increase!
We have two EducationUSA advising centers – one here in Accra and one in Kumasi. Our centers promote U.S. higher education to students by offering accurate, comprehensive, and current information about opportunities to study at accredited post-secondary institutions in the United States. In fact, this coming Friday, September 27, we will host the EducationUSA College Fair at Presec Legon from 11:00am – 4:00pm. I encourage those of you who are interested to attend, where you can meet with representatives from 50 American colleges and universities.
Today, as we celebrate this graduating KSP class, I can already see that this initiative is well on its way to creating a lasting legacy. This program encourages you to think beyond your individual pursuits for the greater good of your communities, both local and global.
For example, last year, Kufuor Scholars –Now recipients of the Presidential Award – Felicity Yeboah Dokyi, Norbert Kwame Agbemenu, and Edem Kojo Doe attended a University Leadership Conference in my country, in Chicago, Illinois. While there, they competed for and won $5,000 in seed funding for the Menarche Initiative that Nana Ama just told us about. The three Scholars I just mentioned are indeed exceptional – and clearly not the exception – in this Kufuor Scholars program. I’ve enjoyed learning more about the many accomplishments members of this graduating Cohort have achieved in the past three years, and I look forward to hearing about more great things.
But – ah beg – don’t follow only the safe and easy path to where you know you will succeed. Take risks, try something new, and push beyond your comfort zone. Consider what some might call failure, as a learning opportunity.
Allow me to share a personal “learning opportunity.” In secondary school, having been selected without much effort to play violin for the All-County Orchestra on my first attempt, I showed up, overconfident and underprepared, for my audition the following year. I regret to say I had hardly, if at all, practiced the piece I was to play. After I had scratched my way painfully though the assigned score, the judge peered over his glasses and asked, “Did you say you were in the all-county orchestra last year?” When I proudly replied “Why, yes, yes I was,” he asked “Are you sure??” Needless to say, that was the end of the audition; I was not selected. This experience taught me to over-prepare.
To Hashtag 2022, you were chosen because of your potential to develop into leaders. Take every opportunity to learn and make the most of this program. And to Hashtag 2019, you are now better equipped to change others’ lives for the better. You all play a key role in developing the next generation of leaders and channeling their talents, passions, and potential in a positive direction. It is time for the mentees to become the mentors.
As you assume greater leadership responsibilities, be persistent. Never give up in the face of adversity, for few successes come without setbacks. In fact, on my journey to becoming a diplomat, I took the Foreign Service Examination not once, not twice, but three times before I finally passed. If I had given up, I would not be standing here before you today as the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana. Remember the Ghanaian proverb: “The wasp says that several regular trips to a mud pit enables it to build a house.”
I have played soccer for decades, including here at Indadfa Park in Mamprobi with the Potscom Ladies when I served in Ghana before. I often played goalie. The best goalie in the world is not going to get a shutout every match. Inevitably, many balls will get past you into the net. It does not mean you have no talent! After a setback on the field or in life, you must collect yourself, resume your concentration, and stay in the game, for your own sake and the good of your team. Finally, as you go forward in your endeavors, do so with integrity. In my line of work, in positions of public trust and as stewards of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars, we actively consider whether our actions would pass what we call “the Washington Post test.” Here, we could call it “the Daily Graphic test.” We stop and think, “What would happen if this got leaked to The Washington Post newspaper?”
To conclude, let me leave you with these thoughts: learn from your experiences, be persistent, and cultivate resilience. I wish all of you the best of luck, whether you are just starting your leadership journey or moving on to enter the professional world. Act with integrity in all you do, and develop into a mentor to those who follow. And may we all stand on the shoulders of our visionary ancestors. Thank you!