The YALI program was launched by President Obama in 2010. He has reiterated again and again that this program is one of his proudest accomplishments, a major priority of his Administration, and a cornerstone of our public diplomacy efforts in Africa.
This past July President Obama renamed YALI as the Mandela-Washington Fellowship. At the time, he told the visiting Fellows, “The spirit of this program reflects [Mandela’s] optimism, his idealism, his belief in what he called “the endless heroism of youth.” President Obama recognizes the importance of investing in the future of Africa, by investing in its young people. As you may know, more than 60 percent of the African population is under 35 years old. You, the 2014 Mandela Washington Fellows are a key part of that group. You will help determine the future of Africa and influence the course of the world. It is also clear to me that you have been excellent ambassadors for your country. We should look forward to working together to produce a better future for the people of Côte d’Ivoire.
This evening we have invited not just our twelve Fellows, but also alumni from the other exchange programs that we do here in Côte d’Ivoire. This evening is a chance for all of the exchange alumni and other Ivoirian leaders to get to know one another. You should forge connections that will continue to bring you together, and move Côte d’Ivoire forward.
You should know that through the Public Affairs Section of our Embassy in Côte d’Ivoire, we take advantage of almost all of the exchange programs that the Department of State has to offer. This includes the Pan-African Youth Leadership Program, the International Visitor Leadership Program, the Fulbright Program, and many others. Many of you have taken part in one of those exchanges. However, it is important to remember that your time in the U.S. is just the beginning of our work together. We need each and every one of you to help us to reach out to other Ivoirian leaders of tomorrow who have not traveled to the United States. We need you to share your knowledge and experiences with the youth of Côte d’Ivoire. We need you to reach out to all of those who could benefit from the things that you have learned, whether they are rising entrepreneurs, NGOs searching for the expertise you possess, or honest, hard-working civil servants looking for encouragement and inspiration.
I hope you agree and I hope you will offer your services to those who need you. I also hope this evening is the beginning of the next stage in our partnership, a partnership in which we, together, can do great things for the people of Cote d’Ivoire. In that spirit, I thank you again for joining us this evening. I look forward to working with all of you as you lead Côte d’Ivoire and the entire African continent to a more prosperous future.