Boys and girls participating in the International Youth Fellowship Fiji World Cultural Camp
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A very good evening to you all.
I would like to begin by giving a warm Fijian welcome to our young participants – our friends from Korea, and our fellow Pacific Islanders from the Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu who have travelled to Fiji to be with us today. I hope you enjoy your time in Fiji and the warm Fijian hospitality that we are famous for around the globe.
The challenges and experiences of youth are not exclusive to only one part of the world. And while we may be separated by vast oceans, I think you’ll all be pleased to learn how much in common you all have with other people your age from other countries.
No matter where you call home, no matter your ethnicity or your religious background, we all face similar obstacles when growing up and finding our places in the world. And while Korea and Pacific Islands may seem very distant, the more time you spend with the friends from other countries that you will make this week, the more you will know that be true.
During your time at this camp, you will have the opportunity to participate in cultural exchanges that will open your eyes to new experiences and teach you many important lessons. You’ll have a chance to learn about places you may only have read about and share your experiences and the lessons you have learned in your own lives.
Every one of you here has stories worth sharing and experiences worth recounting. And I want to encourage you all to share a spirit of openness during this camp – keep your ears open and participate fully so that every boy and girl gathered here today gets the maximum benefit from being here at this camp.
Growing up in the 21st Century is a much different experience than when I was your age, let me assure you. The pressure and stress put on our young people is higher than ever before. You exist in a world that is rapidly changing, and your success and happiness will be determined in no small part by your ability to adapt and change with it.
Some lessons in life will remain unchanged by time, and those are lessons that your teachers, parents and your grandparents can pass along to you. These are lessons you should take heed of, as those from previous generations have gained valuable wisdom and knowledge that you can use to better your own lives. However, some lessons you can only learn from each other.
No one can tell you what it is truly like to live in your world, to be a youth in the year 2016, except for those who are experiencing it for themselves — those who are sitting beside you today. You are surrounded by people your age from all over the Pacific who also have to balance school, sports and social life, help their families and meet their parents’ expectations and find the time to think about the future—to understand and begin to work for what they want in life. And your country, your city or your village is not immune to the social ills and global problems that we all face and must work to remedy.
There are false and destructive temptations like drugs and alcohol. There are problems of violence in our streets and even in our homes. There is the great need to create economic opportunities that will give everyone a better life and more opportunity, There is, of course, the crisis of global warming and rising sea levels, perhaps the most pressing problem of our time, particularly in this region. All of these will require long-term solutions. The will not be solved anytime soon. And that means that you have the opportunity to help find these solutions. Yes, I’m afraid we will still be looking for solutions to these problems when you are my age, but I sincerely believe that we will have made a great deal of progress by that time. And I hope many of you will help find those solutions, will help make the world better.
Great solutions and ideas are not developed by only a few men or women, huddled away from the world. They are developed by the many. The greater the range of experiences available, the more effective and encompassing our ideas can be.
Today, you are all attending camp, but one day you will leaders in your communities and countries and have to work together to move our world forward. When that day comes, you must not allow yourselves to be divided by your differences, but rather united by your commonalities. You must share ideas and learn from each other, just as you will be doing with your fellow youths here at this camp.
Even today, there are issues facing youth communities that demand attention. Your attention. Your input and your ideas. Empowering our young people can’t be achieved solely from the outside looking in. We need youth leaders who can organize and inspire our young people address the modern challenges facing youths from every walk of life. Your voices can help shape policies and programs that will have a direct impact on your lives, and it is the responsibility of every Government to make every effort it can—and seize every opportunity–to engage with you and hear what you have to say.
And while we share many of the same struggles, you are also all entering a world filled with greater opportunity than ever before. And the more expanded your world view, the more capable you will be of seizing that opportunity and finding success. That is what makes this International Youth Fellowship Camp, and every cultural exchange, so important. And my Government will continue to encourage such exchanges whenever possible.
You will only be here a few days, so I encourage you to take full advantage of this opportunity. Learn, communicate and engage fully. Take the lessons you learn back to your communities and your families. And most importantly, constantly seek out ways that you can make an impact on the global stage. Remember, life isn’t about being told what and how to think, it is about thinking for yourself, keeping your eyes and ears and hearts open, and speaking out for what you think is right. It is about what matters to you and how you plan to pursue your dreams.
I am pleased to officially open the 1st International Youth Fellowship Fiji World Cultural Camp and wish you all an enriching and productive camp.
Vinaka Vakalevu and Thank You.