Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the State Department’s assistant secretary of state for African affairs, has a request to YALI Network members that fits well with the current #YALILearns campaign: take the time to educate your peers.
“There is nothing more powerful than education, and you can help,” she told a group of 2016 Mandela Washington Fellows who are attending a program hosted by Howard University in Washington. “You can help one person. If you see someone on the street, hand them a book and sit down on the curb with them and teach them how to read, because reading is powerful and no matter what happens in your country, education can’t be taken away from you.”
Thomas-Greenfield said she gets her energy and a lot of happiness in her job thanks to YALI participants.
Because Africa’s population is relatively young, with 50 to 70 percent under the age of 30, “you are Africa’s greatest future resource,” she said, adding that when the current generation of leaders leave power, “young people will have no other choice but to stand up and take your leadership skills to the next level.”
“I have tremendous hope for this continent. I don’t think that Africa has lived up to its promise yet, but I know that it will. And I know it will because of you,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
“This continent is rich in resources, including its people,and there’s no reason that this continent should be so impoverished. There is no reason there should be a deficit in governance and a deficit in education. This continent ought to be a beacon to everyone in the world,” she said.
“You have an opportunity to move this continent forward, and I am absolutely confident that you will do it,” she told the group.
“Everywhere I go on the continent of Africa, I see young people like yourselves — not just YALI Fellows, but young people who are engaged, who are active, who are ambitious and who want to contribute to their country’s future and their country’s success,” she said.
“We are making a difference because for every one of you, you are going to touch 10 people like you,” Thomas-Greenfield said, challenging the group to use their experiences in America to the benefit of their home countries.
She urged them to use the YALI Network to stay in touch with each other after their return and to use it to support and mentor each other.