The (Chancellor and) Acting Vice Chancellor of the Fiji National University,
Members of the academic faculty,
Prospective students of the FNU and their families,
My fellow Fijians,
Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
I really can’t resist saying “yes” to any opportunity to meet our young people in Fiji. So when I got a last minute opportunity to come to meet you all this morning, I jumped at it.
It isn’t just because I want to inspire you all to choose the FNU for a course of study to improve your lives and get a better job. I get very energised as Prime Minister simply coming face to face with you all.
I admit there are times doing this job when I get a bit tired. I’ve certainly had to fight to keep my energy levels up this week having flown across the world from Morocco. As many of you know, it was a journey well worth making because at the World Climate Summit – COP 22 – in Marrakesh, Fiji was given the honour of becoming President of the next gathering – COP-23 – in Germany next year.
Tomorrow, I’ll be heading back to Europe via the United Arab Emirates to meet the British Government and attend the World Sugar Conference in London. And then I travel on to Brussels to meet with officials of the European Union before coming straight back home to attend the Attorney General’s conference in Natadola.
There, together with His Excellency the President and the Honourable Chief Justice and the Speaker of the Parliament, I will launch the revised laws of Fiji, which have not been consolidated for more than 30 years.
I thought to myself: how can I get myself in the mood to get on the plane and do it all over again? And then someone in my office showed me the invitation to this event. And I thought, that’s it! I’m going to go and meet these wonderful young people who are starting out in life after secondary school and are thinking of going to the FNU. And they will inspire me with their own energy to head out again.
I’m going to spend a fair amount of time this morning not so much making a formal speech but coming out to meet you all face to face. Let’s do some selfies! A lot of selfies! Because you are all going to remind me why this job is so worthwhile. And that is because we must do our best as a government and as a nation to build a great future for all of you. And for every young Fijian.
You are all here today to see what the FNU has to offer and the answer is “a lot”. Our national university has a great range of courses available to give you the skills you need to make your mark in life. And I want to encourage you to use this event today to explore all of the options open to you.
I just want to say this. If there is one lesson that I have learned in life, it is to choose something that you are passionate about. Don’t just do what your parents and friends tell you to do. Do what you think is right for yourself. Because there’s nothing worse than choosing a vocation that someone else has prescribed for you. You have to want to do it. You have to embrace it. And then you have to work as hard as you can at that particular course to get the best possible marks and the best possible skills that you can accumulate.
When I think back to when I was your age, I chose the Navy because I was passionate about a life at sea in the defence of our nation. Like all of you, I had advice from my parents, other relatives and friends about what they thought I should do. But I knew what I wanted to do and I went ahead and did it. And I have never looked back.
The point is that you can only be successful in life if you are passionate about what you do and can have the necessary drive to achieve your ambitions and dreams. Then life has a habit of choosing things for you.
I never dreamt that I would be a politician or one day be Prime Minister. But that’s what happened. And I can tell you that there’s nothing better than a life of public service. Because you get the opportunity to change things and improve the lives of your fellow citizens.
I always say that our education revolution is my proudest achievement as Prime Minister and it’s true. Because I know that with this great leap forward, we were able to do so much to provide opportunity for the young people of Fiji.
When we introduced free schooling at primary and secondary level, we opened up avenues of opportunity for even the most disadvantaged young people. We took away the worry of their parents and grandparents about how they would be able to fund their children’s education.
Many of you here today are the beneficiaries of that revolution. And I want to say how proud I am of all of you. That you have seized the opportunities that you have been given and have really run with them.
Now you have more support in the form of our scholarships and tertiary loans. So there has never been a better time for any Fijian young person to gain the skills they need to have satisfying, well paid jobs and fulfilling lives.
So choose wisely as you move around the various stalls today. There are people from the FNU here to answer all your questions. All you have to do is ask.
Without trying to lead you in a particular direction, I will say this: We have a great shortage of science workers in Fiji. So if your interested in a career in the sciences, there are great opportunities to be had. We also need more foresters, marine scientists, land surveyors, motor mechanics, electricians, engineers and a range of other talents – people with practical skills. So if you embark on fields of study like this, you will not only have satisfying careers but be contributing to our nation’s social and economic development.
My Fellow Fijians, never before has our nation enjoyed such a great reputation in the world. Never before have the Fijian people been more respected. We are taking the quality goods and services we make to the four corners of the earth. We are contributing to making the world a better place with our UN Peacekeepers and our volunteers in Pacific nations. And now we have been chosen by the global community to lead the fight against climate change with our presidency of COP-23 and to co-host a United Nations summit on saving our oceans and seas from pollution and overfishing.
As I keep saying: It is a great time to be Fijian. So go out there and grab the ball and run with it. As Prime Minister, I want to wish you well on behalf of every Fijian in whatever course of study you choose to follow. Please enjoy the day and I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.