Remarks by Amb. Sullivan at Webster University – Ghana Campus Graduation Ceremony

Ambassador Sullivan speaking at the Webster University – Ghana Campus Graduation Ceremony

Webster University – Ghana Campus
Graduation Ceremony
Delivered Remarks by
U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Stephanie S. Sullivan
Saturday, May 18, 2019 | 10:00am

Good morning!
It’s an honor to be here this morning at the Ghana campus of Webster University in Accra on this very special day.

Graduation day. A day that is both a celebration of the end of one chapter – as well as the culmination of years of hard work and intellectual growth – and the start of a new chapter.

As with any major accomplishment, we should acknowledge those who helped us along the way. Of the 27 graduates in the audience, I’m sure there are at least double that number of family and friends who supported your success that we are celebrating today. Let’s take a moment to express our gratitude with a round of applause.

When Director Christa Sanders invited me to address the Webster University Class of 2019, I jumped at the chance. Last year, our Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Ambassador Tibor Nagy, made strengthening university partnerships and promoting study in the United States one of the Bureau of African Affairs’ top priorities. And Webster University embodies both. A U.S.-based university with campuses on four continents, Webster University acknowledges that
in order to produce responsible and well-rounded graduates, the university must actively bring together students and professors from every corner of the world. I’m proud that this U.S.-based university recognized the need and benefit of being global not just in its student body but also in the locations of the university itself.

Webster University’s focus on creating global citizens is timely. Today, countries around the world face similar challenges, including a burgeoning worldwide youth population with limited economic opportunities, pandemic health threats, and the persistence of violent extremism. Time again, countries like my own are reminded that these challenges need global solutions. And that’s where you all, the graduates, come in.

I encourage the graduating Class of 2019 to take the ideals that were instilled in you during your time here at Webster University and get to work solving today’s challenges – from economic development and trade to regional security and strengthening good governance.

I call on you to make your unique contributions to investing your time and energy – and, as your financial circumstances permit, your generosity – in Africa’s burgeoning youth population, especially in advancing economic growth. Youth participation is vital to development and can mitigate cycles of poverty; build resilient, democratic societies; improve health outcomes; and strengthen economies. This type of investment will have tremendous positive effects not only on the future of Africa, but also on the prosperity and success of the entire world.

Empowering youth is at the heart of the U.S.-Africa partnership. Across the continent, the United States partners with local governments, civil society organizations, and citizens from all walks of life to advance the mutually reinforcing goals of prosperity, democracy, and security.
I cannot emphasize enough how critical youth engagement is in our pursuit of these goals.

As you leave this unique, close-knit international community, you are better equipped to be force multipliers for leadership on the global stage. Today, remember the mentors who helped you get to this moment – your administrators, teachers, families, and friends. Remember them and pay it forward. It is not too early for you to be the mentors for the next generation.

When I graduated from college, I did not have a clue about what I wanted to be and do when I grew up. Some of you graduating today already know and are already practitioners. As for me, right after graduation, I came to Africa, the former Zaire, as a Peace Corps Volunteer teacher. That experience opened my eyes to many things, including the possibility, which had never crossed my mind, of becoming a diplomat. After Peace Corps, I did a few other things along the way, including working as a temporary employee where I had assignments ranging from doing data entry to arranging shoes at a department store. I also taught English as a foreign language, did fundraising at my alma mater, and was a corporate headhunter. All within three years!

This is a time in your life when you can explore new possibilities, and open your eyes to opportunities you may not have known existed. Stay open to serendipity as well – you never know where it will lead. If you are too narrowly focused or driven to keep up with others’ successes as portrayed on their social media accounts, you may miss your true calling.

And so, Graduating Class of 2019, I offer you my hearty congratulations – you made it! Enjoy your day, and best of luck on the next, exciting chapter, that only you can write.
Thank you!