April 8-10, 2015 – IV Youth Forum
April 10-12, 2015 – VII Summit of the Americas
We are not only the future, but the present too; it is important that our voices be heard and taken seriously. A new colleague and friend, Edmavi Gonzalez, rightly questioned:
“¿Quién dijo que no se puede ser jóven e interesarse por los problemas del país y la región?”
“Who said you can’t be young and interested in the problems of the country and the region?”
We are very young, but with that comes energy and passion about understanding our world and making it a better place, and this Youth Forum was created for that very purpose. It was an incredible honor to have been chosen as one of five U.S. Youth Delegates to participate in the IV Young Americas Forum. Not only was it the first time in the summit’s history that Cuba has been a part of the conversation, but it was also the first time in its history that our hemisphere’s leaders received two official youth declarations: the declaration of the Spanish working groups and the declaration of the English working group.
Over the course of seven hours, split between two days, our working group of 15 created and submitted this document to the heads of state in the hemisphere: http://yabt.net/foro/download/IV-Young-Americas-Forum-Declaration.pdf
You may still be wondering…
What is the Summit of the Americas?
The Summit of the Americas is a meeting of heads of state and other representatives from the 35 countries that make up the Americas. The previous meeting was held in Colombia in April 2012, and they are held about every 2-3 years, but there are no fixed intervals. The leaders of the hemisphere typically meet for two full days sitting at a round table, à la King Arthur and his Knights of Camelot, to discuss key issues facing the mighty kingdom of the Americas. At the end of the two-day summit they agree on a series of action points and draft a final declaration of the goals that the countries will collectively work towards.
The overarching theme of this year’s summit was “Prosperity with Equity: The Challenge of Cooperation in the Americas.” How do ensure development is fair and just? How do we close the income gap? How do we give everyone a voice? Besides the heads of state gathering at each summit, there are also a series of meetings on the sidelines: civil society organizations, indigenous peoples, youth, private sector, labor unions and other social actors play an essential role in the summit process. They provide recommendations on the various sub-themes of the summit and assist in the implementation process of initiatives they hope to become a part of the hemispheric agenda.
How did it start?
The first-ever meeting of this nature was said to be organized by the one and only great liberator, Simon Bolivar, who called a meeting in Panama for newly-independent states in 1826. The first official summit was held back in 1994. Emerging from a Cold War period, characterized by confrontation and a lack of confidence, the region drafted their agenda based on three major points: democracy, free markets and the need to strengthen multilateralism (in response to globalization). As a result came the birth of the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) – which has proven to be a mega fail, to put it bluntly – but brought the summit member states even closer together like an exclusive clique. #democracy #shamethenonbeliever
In response to Peruvian President Fujimori’s effort to crush representative democracy and keep himself in power at the turn of the 21st century, member states unanimously agreed to – and formed – the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Democratic Charter, committing the region to promote and defend representative democratic government. The first Article clearly states: “The peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy, and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it.” It was an impressive and progressive normative pact considering the region’s history marked by military coups and countless human rights abuses. The Charter has actually been referenced recently regarding recent human rights violations in Venezuela (see here).
To read more about the summit’s history, this page is a good go-to. Richard Feinberg also gives interesting insight into the history of the summit and into the importance of including Cuba (which did in fact happen this year).
Why Care About the Americas?
The Americas are home to about 954 million people – almost a sixth of the world’s population. It’s a thriving region of peace, economic progress and touristic interest (for the most part). There is no doubt that Latin America is on the rise economically. Bloomberg notes that by 2020, Latin American GDP is expected to reach $10 trillion—double that of 2010—with 640 million active consumers. Peru is forecast to be the fastest growing economy in the region in 2015, with growth of 4.5%. Colombia is second with 3.5%; Mexico third with 3.2%. The US is slightly behind, by comparison, at 3.1%. That being said – as we’ve seen time and time again – such prosperity has only been enjoyed by a small group of individuals and has not been sufficiently and broadly shared by the people.
That is where the need for equity comes in. Equity is not just an ethical demand, but also a technical condition for the sustainable growth of our countries and for our future peace and stability (and is not the same as equality).
It must be clearly understood what equity really means. Instead of sameness, we must think of fairness; instead of giving everyone the same thing, we must ensure that there is access to the same opportunities. We can only enjoy equality once we first ensure that we’re all starting from the same point. This in itself is difficult, as there are much social, political and economic differences among our hemisphere’s nations.
While the Americas have been enjoying a state of relative peace and – with perhaps a few exceptions – political stability, but these luxuries are balancing on a very fine line. It can all be jeopardized if the region doesn’t address some of the most pressing challenges our people face today. Democracy, for example, can be limited by both inequality and inequities. Therefore, if we want to strengthen our level of democracy we must first fight to conquer these challenges head-on. The cases are similar for security, immigration, and energy resource scarcity, all of which were highlighted as key themes and discussion points of the summit’s agenda.
It is often said that reforms in global economic governance are (more often than not) compromises between an intended ideal or vision and the changes that reforming decision makers will tolerate. As Thomas Pogge once said, “it is quite unfortunate for the global poor, whose best hope may be our [the rich and powerful’s] moral reflection.” (Freedom from Poverty As a Human Right: Who Owes What to the Very Poor?, New York, 2007, pp. 48-49). Hence why the auxiliary gatherings – such as the IV Youth Forum – have so much importance within in the summit process; they bring together different societal groups with their own agenda and priorities so that their needs can be presented to the heads of state so that their voices may finally be heard and taken seriously.
One of the organizing groups gaining significant steam over the years has been the Indigenous Peoples Group. Prosperity in the 21st century tends to come with some prerequisites: growth and development, which over the years (centuries even) have a way of disturbing the environment and relocating some of our region’s most vulnerable communities. This part of the world is home to an incredibly large number of indigenous communities, who find themselves continuously fighting for their rights, their lives, and the protection of their land. In fact, over 300 indigenous peoples’ leaders from across the continent came to Panama City for their own summit: The V Summit of Indigenous Peoples Abya Yala, with the theme “defending the future of our nations.” They covered issues such as territory, autonomy, human rights, environment and climate change, and aimed to create a document that would garner support for the rights of indigenous people throughout the hemisphere.
Other reasons to keep an eye on the Americas: our leaders are also some of the most enthusiastic adopters of social media – the top five most active world leaders on Twitter are all from Latin America (they’re just so tech savvy). And politically, the Americas is a region of particularly interesting history and social movements. Harriet Alexander of the Telegraph lays out some interesting facts that have made major headlines over the years: 1) liberating itself from the French in 1803, Haiti was the first independent black country in the world. More recently, 2) peace talks have been started in Colombia with Farc rebels, aimed at ending the world’s longest-running civil war (see here); 3) there have been impressive civil society movements in both Mexico and Brazil (Mexico here, Brazil here); and 4) the student movement in Chile (here). The Americas are also a region in which there is a notably large number of women in politics: the presidents of all three Southern Cone countries – Brazil, Chile and Argentina, for example, are currently women. Bachelet (who had to cancel her trip to the summit) is MAH GIRL – love that woman – but I can’t help but throw in a sassy picture of Kirchner.
That being said, the region is often in the headlines for its more negative news – from reports on race and hate in US and the DR (here), human rights violations in Venezuela (here) to drugs wars in Central America (here) and the current corruption scandal in Brazil (here).
There are a plethora of issues throughout the hemisphere that span the social, political and economic realms. Yet in world that is growing smaller and smaller as a result of globalization, we are only becoming more interdependent one one another. Most westerners assume that our actions and the global order that we impose do not substantially contribute to severe poverty abroad, but they are wrong. And that’s why it is so important to care about this region that remains scarred with history, but rich with culture, countless natural wonders and biodiversity, and so much potential. We must take a step back and truly listen to our global peers coming from each stratum of society so that we may truly and effectively set ourselves on a path towards meaningful prosperity.
It is undeniable that the time for the Americas has come. Prosperity is on the rise, and dreams have been awakened. By breaking down barriers and the old dividing lines, we might be able to finally unlock the potential of our people, help lift them up, and give them a stake in the stability of their countries and their neighbors.
Why was this year so important?
All summits are a big deal, but this year was particularly huge. For about a week Panama was in the eyes of the world. Presidents, delegates, journalists and protestors all flocked to the “little Miami” of Central America as a number of events were carried out throughout the city without any major incidents (no doubt thanks to all of those road closures and sniper details scattered across the Panamanian skyline). They even transformed Panama Viejo (the old ruins, now in the middle of a lower working-class neighborhood) into a luxury outdoor dining experience for Obama & co.
Most importantly, this was the first summit in its existence that Cuba was invited to sit at the table, and the agenda had never made so many international headlines until this year. Cuba was invited following some significant peer pressure from other American leaders, as if we were back in high school witnessing a group of freshmen standing up to the big, tall and power senior bully, yelling “ENOUGH!”
The US can be a pretty mean girl sometimes
Cuba’s presence had always been blocked by the US. Aside from our Cold War grudge, the little island is the last remaining dictatorship in the Americas and goes against everything we agreed to uphold through Democratic Charter back in 2001. But as time passed, it became more apparent just how ridiculous it was to discuss the major issues facing the hemisphere without equal representation from every nation in the hemisphere. Perhaps it seemed like it for some, but the Obama Administration didn’t opt to lift the embargo on Cuba just out of the blue; it had been in the works since the last summit gathering in 2012, when every member nation in the region (except for the US and Canada, of course) voted – 32:2 – to include Cuba in Panama’s 2015 Summit. Some nations even threatened to forgo attendance if Cuba remained shutout. But aside from peer pressure, this was a big move for the US to finally confront and admit to its 55-year-old failed policy that was obviously more out of pride than anything else. Let’s be honest, who was the embargo really helping? No one.
In a statement back in December, our brilliant POTUS took a stand:
“Neither the American, nor Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born…. Change is hard – in our own lives, and in the lives of nations. And change is even harder when we carry the heavy weight of history on our shoulders. But today we are making these changes because it is the right thing to do. Today, America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past so as to reach for a better future – for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere, and for the world.”
By lifting the embargo and extending a summit invitation to Havana, Washington hoped to give new-found meaning to its long-abused – and often hollow – rhetorical trope for the region: partnership.
Cuba’s attendance not only made top headlines and kept things interesting each day, but it brought a new-found usefulness to the summit. Hostilities between Washington and Havana tended to dominate discussions in previous gatherings. The Obama administration hoped that its new approach to Cuba might win some brownie points in the region and get them talking about and taking action on real concerns related to improving governance or even advancing democratic values instead of getting stuck in conversations revolving around Cuba’s exclusion like a broken record.
But just as the US works to better its relations with Cuba, its relations with Venezuela continue to falter. Venezuela has been a recent source of contention over the past year inflicting serious human rights offenses against its people. John Kerry even mentioned before the House back in March that the US is prepared to invoke the Charter on Venezuela if necessary. In fact, the US has imposed new sanctions on Venezuela in measures describing Venezuela as a national security risk to the US. Maduro was (obviously) leading the anti-US attacks throughout the summit, which is fairly predictable since he accuses the US on a near-weekly basis of trying to stage a coup in Venezuela…. and you wonder why they wouldn’t give me a visa? It is interesting to note, however, that despite nearly two decades of friction between the two countries during the administrations of first Chavez and now Maduro, that the US still remains Venezuela’s largest trading partner, and Venezuela one of America’s most important foreign oil suppliers. #funfacts #gottalovepolitics
Days leading up to the official summit brought the auxiliary forums for various social groups, as well as hoards of protesters looking for any opportunity to have their voices heard. There were the anticipated pro- and anti-Castro groups, prompting several fights between the two sides. There were the anti Maduro exiles (Venezuela) – many of whom have been expatriated here in Panama – hoping to influence the 23 leaders who had denounced Obama’s controversial decree, and similar fights broke out on the streets among those dissidents and those who defend Maduro’s regime. Indigenous peoples from across the continent also came to the city to march for recognition; there was a peoples march, where Nicaraguan opponents of the country’s canal project unfurled their banners and marched, even local Panamanian prostitutes demonstrated to demand their rights. Panamanian Youth also took the opportunity to stand up to their own government for its continued silence around the underlying tension that remains from the US bombing of 1989. As you can see, there was a LOT going on in the span of a few short days.
During President Varela’s Address to our Youth Forum, some Panamanian delegates stood quietly in the front corner of the room holding a sign: “¿dónde estan los muertos de la invasión?”
Protesting the fact that Panama still neglects addressing the 1989 US invasion of Panama – “Operation Just Cause” (just ’cause) – to oust Noriega, during which bombings killed thousands and burned the poor, working class neighborhood of El Chorillo to the ground.
Hosting the summit was of major importance to Panama as well. It was back in 1956 when Panama hosted a hemispheric conference attended by 19 heads of state from the hemisphere, including Cuban dictator Batista and US President Eisenhower. The Canal Zone was still controlled by the US at that time and played a significant role in the lives of all Panamanians. The schoolboys who became “martyrs” and set into motion events leading to the transfer of the Canal from the US to Panama were probably still in elementary school at that time. Furthermore, just a year ago, Panama celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal. Panama is the bridge of the Americas, its canal the pathway between the seas. The canal has become a symbol of international relations, new-age globalization, and the universal exchange of culture; it has also completely revolutionized our global commerce. The long and sensitive history between Panama and the US over jurisdiction of the canal is now regarded as a historic turning point in promoting dialogue and consensus between nations. And that’s precisely what the summits seek to accomplish: to bring together nations with far more in common than they are separated by, to identify shared goals, and to work together to accomplish those goals for the collective good. The famed handshake between Cuba and the US didn’t just signify the long belated end to a cold war grudge, but it also became a powerful symbol of our region’s ability (and continued need) to transcend our differences in order to efficiently work towards positive outcomes.
I doubt they went out for beers that night.. but it’s a start. From LA Times
Is cooperation really possible? For the third summit in a row, heads of state failed to issue a final declaration, and it was due to U.S. and Canadian opposition. Both countries opposed clauses in the draft document that made references to the strengthening of collective rights, as well as those that called on states to have greater obligations… pissing off Bolivia and Argentina in particular.
The summit was essentially a “forced holiday” that took many Panamanians and Expats by surprise… even though it has been planned for over a year at this point. There were several road closures, businesses closed for lack of accessibility, and a number of national guardsmen patrolling the streets. Personally, I kind of enjoyed the quiet for awhile. I live in between two very busy streets, and even though I’m way up on the 25th floor, I can still hear the rumble of trucks and horns as if I were down on the street with them. The road closure brought some serenity that week, aside from the occasional police escort caravan or helicopter passing by.
What did I do?
I was a delegate at the Youth Forum, which formed one of the many components of the summit.
The Young Americas Forum is a space provided by the YABT (Young Americas Business Trust) where youth, as social actors, are actively involved in the summit process. This year was the 4th Youth Forum and centered around the theme “Youth: Partners for Prosperity,” tangential to the overall summit theme: “Prosperity with Equity: The Challenge of Cooperation in the Americas”. The forum brought together young citizens of the Caribbean and the Americas, between 18 and 30 years old, to talk about the various themes of the summit, make recommendations, take action and propose strategies for joint collaboration among each country to successfully address these themes.
Growth, employment, poverty, environmental sustainability, energy security, discrimination and crime are all issues that can be resolved with the democratic adoption and implementation of effective and efficient public policies. One of the goals of the summit process was to identify a multidimensional way to strengthen democracy and governance, helping to reduce poverty and increase opportunities throughout the Americas. As I mentioned above, that all ties in with the overarching theme of equity.
Months leading up to the summit, the YABT held several online forums and virtual consultations, that collected opinions from youth throughout the Americas on the very topics that we were to discuss. YABT consolidated those points ahead of time, presented them to us, and assigned our group the mission to merge our opinions with those of thousands of our peers into a 1-2 page document. No pressure.
A tangential part of the Youth Forum was an implementation component, called the Talent and Innovation Competition of the Americas “TIC Americas 2015” in which young entrepreneurs contributed solutions and innovative projects related to the themes of the Summit. TIC Americas is a start-up accelerator and international support platform for young entrepreneurs. Each TIC entrepreneurial group had their own booth in the showroom (across the hall from the main ballroom) to share their ideas and project proposals, hoping to gain enough support (stickers) from delegates and attendees to win funding for their idea.
I applied to be a delegate my first week here in Panama. Literally, I got an email on my 3rd day in the country being like “Hey Bailey, glad to have you here! You should apply for this, the application is due this Sunday” HAH what are the chances? It’s like it was meant to be, eh? I’ll confess: I didn’t know too much about the summit before I applied, aside from talking briefly about it in my IR Senior Seminar. That being said, I was passionate about the issues facing our hemisphere, and world for that matter. I saw this opportunity as one where I could bring some of my own knowledge to the table, but more importantly so that I could listen and learn from my peers throughout the hemisphere. The whole reason I majored in IR in college was because I felt that my whole life I had been disconnected to what was going on in the world, and even as a graduate, I find there is still so much more that I need to learn and understand. It also made me realize how, as a culture, the US could step up their game a bit when it comes to international awareness. I feel like the average American doesn’t really know (or care to know) much about our world dynamics, because they may not feel like it would ever affect them… but that’s a rant for another day. Even so, I think that’s exactly what we need throughout the world: more people listening and seeking to understand different opinions instead of loudly forcing their own upon others.
Anyway, the Youth Forum took place two days prior to the actual summit in Hotel El Panama, literally a 5-min walk from my apartment. The forum started bright and early at 8 AM with speeches in the main room before we broke into our different working groups. In total there were about 300 youth delegates from all across the Americas. The Cubans stuck out like sore thumbs: instead of suits and pantyhose, they opted for jeans, patriotic shirts and buttons while waving their flags with pride and vigor during most speeches and presentations. They came prepared with plenty of materials too. From check-in the very first day to the closing ceremony, Cuban youth delegates distributed pamphlets, flyers and booklets, many of which protesting the inclusion of “mercenaries” at the Civil Society Forum.
Hotel El Panamá. Apparently the Clintons were staying here during the summit, but I didn’t come across any chance sightings. Just my luck. Photo from El Panamá.
US Youth Delegates & friends cheesing with the U.S. Ambassador to Panama and Andy, the State Department Special Adviser for Global Youth Issues.
As I’ve mentioned, the theme of the Summit was “Prosperity with Equity: The Challenge of Cooperation in the Americas,” and the sub-themes were identified as Education, Energy and the Environment, Security and Migration, and Citizen Participation and Democratic Governance. YABT organized working groups that corresponded with these sub-themes, assigning delegates to each group based on interests and experience that they listed in their applications. My fellow US delegates and I understood the working language of the groups would be Spanish and assumed we would be assigned to one of those groups just like any other delegate; however, we found out that they had actually created a separate English Working Group. Out of the five US delegates, four of us were tossed into that group #duh #gringos. The fifth delegate, Emily (a fellow Fulbright) was assigned to one of the main working groups focusing on security. Side note: 4/5 of us were also U.S. Fulbrights (the fifth was a high school student whose father works for the US Embassy). Hrm. Good turn out USA, now it all makes sense why the Embassy was so encouraging haha I am incredibly thankful that they were, but I also wish more young Americans had known that they had access to participating in this opportunity.
Anyway, our English working group consisted of representatives from the US and the Caribbean, Panama and Peru. It was the perfect size for productive discussion and debate (15 of us in total, compared to 40-100 in the other groups), yet disheartening that we did not have representation from every country in the hemisphere (likewise if more of the US delegates and non-Spanish-speaking Caribbean delegates could have been involved in the Spanish-speaking groups. Some might have required an interpreter, but it would’ve been worth it to make sure that we/they weren’t being excluded from meaningful discussions and from understanding opinions of their peers. That’s what we were there for after all, right?) Although many of us were disappointed with this language segregation of sorts, our discussions were really fruitful as we were able to discuss all of the themes and issues relating to the summit. Plus, the forum provided other outlets to connect with peers aside from our working groups too, so we were able to meet plenty of interesting people and continue living diplomacy outside of the summit’s domain.
The Environmental and Energy Sub-working group
Day one in the working group, we divided ourselves into smaller sub-groups to draft a paragraph on each key theme. I went with the Environment and Energy group, consisting of me, Braeden and William (Panamanian delegate and recent Fulbright grantee who’s heading off to California to get a masters in Engineering). Although many of the topics are interrelated to some degree, I find the environment to be of particular interest, personally. It’s impossible to deny that the well-being of the world in which we live is crucial to our survival in years to come. If we cannot eat or drink, or if our homes are destroyed by natural disasters – what do we have? How can we focus on bettering equity and democracy when we won’t even be able to feed ourselves or our families? In our group we discussed a number of topics, from conservation, renewable and alternative energy, preservation, reforestation, and indigenous land rights, among many other areas. While we were working the other groups did the same. After a few hours our first day, we had a rough draft of our recommendations, which we finalized and submitted the following day after much nit-picking and deliberation.
Meanwhile, the Spanish working groups (some with over 100 delegates) were forming their paragraphs before merging them into one final declaration. According to the YABT representatives overseeing our group, our document was ~so good~ that they decided to submit and present it as the official English version. I wasn’t quite sure if they were being straight with us or just saying that to make us feel good, but earlier they did mention they were going to incorporate and translate our thoughts into the Spanish version, which they didn’t end up doing… So I’ll take it. Pretty epic!
All in all, it was a jam-packed, exhausting experience squeezed into two days, but incredible all the same.
What were my takeaways?
1. I met some truly amazing people.
One of the major benefits of the Youth Forum is that it brought together 300 brilliant and motivated young people who truly want to make a things better in their countries and throughout the region. Aside from getting to know my fellow Fulbrights even better, the English working group brought a number of hilarious characters as well, giving our group a unique atmosphere. We were productive and efficient, yet gave ourselves plenty of time to goof around. Because of all of the planned social programs it was also easy to meet new friends out of the English speaking room too. The first night the hotel hosted an open bar and DJ right at the pool area, and the next night they rented out a club in Casco for us #selfiesgalore What better way to break the ice, make connections and lasting memories with some of our (potential) future colleagues?
It was also really cool to meet and hang out with Andy Rabens, Special Adviser for Global Youth Issues, and Ahmad Alhendawi, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth – mostly because we got to chat with them as real people in a relaxed environment instead of in an official setting.
2. It’s one thing to forgive, it’s another to forget.
Cuba & USA Youth Delegates
It’s not too hard to open your ears and mind to a different perspective,
isn’t that what collaboration is all about?
Like I’ve said, one of my main goals during the summit was to observe, listen, and do my best to understand the bigger picture. In between two of the speaker series in the main hall, the other Fulbrights and I were enjoying our free Pepsi products one row behind some Cuban delegates, and began chatting. One woman commented on President Obama’s and the US government’s deceitfulness, which opened the door to an interesting discussion and debate. Yes, I am proud to be a citizen of the United States, and I am incredibly thankful for the rights and privileges that come with it. That being said, I am also aware that the US continues to uphold its reputation of being the Big Bad Wolf in the hemisphere and throughout the world. Try and deny it all you want, but it’s true. And it’s not something we can leave for the big politicos to deal with, no – it matters for the average person just like you and me: the expat living abroad, the couple looking to travel for their honeymoon, the person prepping for a backpacking adventure or to conduct tropical research. Particularly in Latin America, in which there is still significant anti-imperialist (anti-US) sentiment throughout the region. Participating in the Youth Forum in which US Representation accounted for about 1.6% of the total participants.. yeah, we got to hear our fair share of that. Particularly from the speeches of those leading the region’s Pink Tide: Castro (Cuba), Maduro (Venezuela) and Morales (Bolivia).
If I had a dime for every (US) American “gringo” I’ve come into contact with abroad throughout my 23 years who has perpetuated the stereotypes that others have of our people…. I’d be set for life. There are many who assume that because they’re from the US life is chill, and when we travel everyone will love us and welcome our money. And in some situations, that may be true. But in the US, I find we often forget, take for granted, or don’t even take the time to realize how harmful many of our policies have been in Latin America. While President Obama stated that the days where we “so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity…are past,” many Latin Americans have not forgotten those days, and they may often impact the way that we are treated, which is incredibly important to realize. It’s easy to feel like the past is the past, and we should just move on and deal with the present; that we shouldn’t ruffle our feathers over something that happened decades ago. However, participating in the summit was a true reminder that the past is never truly behind us; that we as a country need to take responsibility for our actions, and that we as a people need to educate ourselves on why it matters.
3. Being this young, you’ve gotta work to be taken seriously, but doors will open for us.
As youth, there are many of us who have a lot of passion and determination, who are driven to really get ourselves places in life. Although it’s easy to get discouraged (that whole “need experience to get experience” block), we have to persevere and just try, try and try again. Maria Contreras-Sweet, the Administrator of the Small Business Administration, said, “if one person doesn’t listen to you, try another. There are people who will open the doors for you, who will see your determination and energy.” So to paraphrase: #yolo why not keep (politely) pestering that job you applied for last month? Why not show up to a job you really want and deliver your resume and application in person? Sometimes a little extra effort and perseverance may show them that you are really invested, dedicated and stay true to what you want. Sure we’re young, but we have so much to give – so much passion, drive and energy – but we need to SHOW it. We have to put ourselves out there and if they still don’t take the bone then say “fine” “ok” and move on. What I learned is that we must continually advocate for ourselves, saying yes we’re young, yes we don’t have as much experience, but we’re fresh, we’re new, we’re not only the future but the present too. Teach me and I will not only do what you ask of me, but I will do it faster and exceed your expectations. Yes it can feel awkward and get exhausting, but with such passion #bitchezbewowed.
US Team & Friends with Maria Contreras-Sweet, the Administrator of the Small Business Administration
4. Got to take a selfie with Obama during his speech… kind of.
Pero like… we’re both in the same picture, it’s not photoshopped, and it is a selfie. So totally legit.
5. Coconut is apparently the future.
There were several coconut products featured in the TIC Americas 2015 Expo. It can be used to make a delicious drink, as a key ingredient in girl scout cookies, and to also fuel a car and make coal, among so many other uses!!! ALTERNATIVE ENERGY FOR THE WIN!
There are many who still see this forum as a mere formality, rather than anything meaningful; to keep up appearances rather than taking our input to heart… and you know what, they may be right, it may be an unfortunate reality still. Regardless, this forum brought together 300 young people from all over the region with varying ideas and perspectives. It allowed us to meet one another, discuss, debate, and compromise on a wide range of issues. It has given us a broader understanding of the region of the world in which we live, which is invaluable for us as we go on to be young entrepreneurs, leaders, and global citizens ourselves, and I can’t wait to cross paths again with some of the wonderful people I got to know that week. This was only the 4th Youth Forum with the Summit, and I hope by Peru 2018 we will be able to have small, more inclusive working groups that focus on each topic with representative members from each nation in the region.
Summit Summary: US – Cuba Sitdown Drowns Out Venezuela Meltdown
White House Fact Sheet of the US’ Participation in the Summit
Take a look at these 5 Topics That Went Under-reported at the Summit,
President Obama’s Speech at the Civil Society Forum
President Obama’s Speech at the Start of the Summit
Cuba’s Leader Raul Castro’s Speech
Summary of Bolivian Preisdent Evo Morales’ Speech
Summary of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s Speech
Duncan’s Sassy Commentary On Summit Happenings
The views and information presented in this blog are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the US Department of State.