Chargé d’Affaires Martina Boustani Remarks for Youth Leaders Ndogou – June 13, 2017

2017 06 13 Youth Ndogou

Remarks for
Chargé d’Affaires Martina Boustani
Youth Leaders Ndogou
June 13, 2017

(As prepared)

Assalamou Aleikoum!

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the U.S. Embassy’s ndogou for young leaders.  Every year the U.S. Embassy hosts an ndogou, but I arrived in Senegal last year after Ramadan, so I am delighted to be able to mark my first ndogou with you this year.

As I look around the room, I see an impressive group of young Senegalese leaders who are continuing this country’s long tradition of tolerance and respect for diversity. I know that this tradition is in good hands with all of you.

As Americans, we also value diversity and tolerance. Across the United States, American Muslims are holding iftars in their homes, mosques, and community centers.  Some communities, such as those on American university campuses, have also embraced the idea of interfaith iftars. Like we are doing tonight, many of my colleagues at U.S. embassies around the world are also gathering to share in the holiest month in the Islamic calendar.

Ramadan is a time for prayer and reflection.  As U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently said,
“Ramadan is a month of reverence, generosity, and self-reflection.” It is also a time for compassion, forgiveness, and charity.  Those values are universal.  To all of you tonight and to all Muslims around the world, Ramadan Kareem !

Tonight’s ndogou is about how you, as young Senegalese leaders, offer inspiration to your peers through your work. With a median age of 18, Senegal is an overwhelmingly young country. During my time here, I have had the opportunity to meet many young people, like you, who are hard at work every day imagining the country’s future and shaping it.

Whether in government, religious life, civic engagement, business, sports, or the arts, you each have a story to share.

For example, among us tonight, there are former talibes who are now activists working to help protect children and to raise awareness about the victims of human trafficking.

There are also new judges strengthening the Senegalese legal system and making sure that the laws are applied evenly and fairly for all.

Others have started their own businesses, bringing jobs and economic opportunities to other young Senegalese.

Still others are working in the health field to make sure that vulnerable populations have access to healthcare.

And I would not want to forget those helping to bring access to technology to young women and girls.

This is just to mention a few of you and the work you do every day to make Senegal a more just, democratic, prosperous, and inclusive society.

We have both new friends and old friends among us tonight so I would like to say a few words to each.  First of all, it is a pleasure to see our alumni, that is those of you who have participated in our youth exchange programs such as the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, the Study of the U.S. Institutes for Student Leaders, the Pan African Youth Leadership Program, or the Kennedy Lugar Youth Exchange just to name a few. You have visited the United States to learn about our country while also serving as Ambassadors for Senegalese culture.  I thank you for strengthening the ties between our two countries

To those of you who I do not already know, welcome!  Our partners and alumni told us about the amazing work you are doing and we were thrilled that you accepted this invitation to join us.  I look forward to getting to know you better tonight and to expand the Embassy’s network of friends.

Whatever your field, we know that you are striving to be a force of positive change. I commend you for that and encourage you to continue.

Each table will soon receive a question about youth leadership.  I encourage you to discuss the question at your tables.  We will then ask for one representative from each table to briefly present what was discussed.  This will be an opportunity for us to hear from you about  the important role that young people play in Senegal. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your work and your thoughts on this important topic.

I know that Ramadan is a very busy period, and a time that you spend with your family, so I am very thankful that you took the time to join us tonight.

Enjoy the dinner, discussion, and each other’s company! Dieredief! Ramadan Kareem!