Remarks at USAID’s PRO-Future conference – Sutjeska Park

Dobro jutro svima. Hvala Majda i hvala načelniče Mašić  na toploj dobrodošlici i važnim porukama. Drago mi je što sam danas ovdje sa grupom mladih političara koji su prava inspiracija.

It is great to be in a room full of young people. You are always my favorite people to meet. Not only because you are energetic (and make me feel young), but because you have more of a stake in the future of this country than anyone else.

First, let me congratulate each of you for, number one, applying, and number two, being selected for this political academy. I understand it was a highly competitive process, so you should all be proud that you rose to the top. This academy is designed to prepare you for political activism based on the principles of tolerance, trust-building, and working together across ethnic lines to build and maintain lasting peace in your beautiful country.

Your generation has grown up in times of breathtaking change. The ease and cost of technology has transformed daily lives. People across the globe are connected, making us all more capable of solving problems together than ever before. You, as digital natives,

know that better than anyone. With a click an entrepreneur can expand her market, a health care solution can be sent to a doctor, or a good idea about how to protect the environment can spread.

Unfortunately, the bad can spread as easily as the good. Toxic political rhetoric that tries to divide people and weaken democratic institutions helps to create a negative narrative that erodes people’s will to try to work for change and have hope for the future.

To be sure, there are real challenges in this country with corruption, inadequate education, a lethargic business climate, a bloated public sector, and more. But the toxic rhetoric about BiH does nothing to resolve those problems; it only reinforces the false narrative that there are insurmountable divisions between people and helps to maintain the status quo. It is exactly the opposite of what you in this room believe and many others like you – that change is possible with united effort, a network of support, and some talent.

Those things are here in this room. Your presence here today tells me that you are ready to take responsibility for your future. Living in silent or passive acceptance of the status quo is not an option for you. And from what I have seen, there are many more like you: brilliant and courageous, with the potential to make a difference.

I do not agree with the cliché that defines youth as “future leaders.” I personally think that you are the leaders of today. And you need and deserve a place at the table today. And among the many questions facing BiH, the most vital one to answer is how to empower your generation to use its talents, skills, and ideas so that your generation makes the decision that lead BiH and its people to prosperity and success.

This Political Academy is an incredible opportunity for all of you to work together to tackle some of the big issues facing BiH. This is your chance to experience first-hand how even people with different political backgrounds can collaborate on shared objectives and develop long-term relationships to promote lasting peace in everything you do.

What you learn and the relationships you build will be important to carry with you throughout your political careers. The need for courageous, collaborative, and forward-looking leadership will be critical for developing innovative solutions for both peace and development.

The late U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy once said: “This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.”

You have those qualities, and that gives me hope.

Keep up the good work and don’t settle for the status quo, but rather push for change as only young political leaders can. The U.S. Embassy and USAID are proud to support you.

Thank you, and now if I could ask you a few questions.