At the City Hall of Environmental Responsibility YSEALI
MRS GARCIA: Well, it’s a pleasure for me to be here today with all of you and the secretary. I wanted to welcome you to the YSEALI town hall on environmental responsibility. Everyone knows me, and I know them, but me Amparo Garcia. I am a cultural affairs officer. And without further ado, I’d like to introduce Secretary of State Antony Blinken. (Applause.)
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks. Thanks. (In Khmer.) (Laughs.) Wonderful. Wonderful to be with you all. And I must tell you that I was particularly looking forward to seeing all of you participating in the YSEALI program. I’m going to focus today, I think, on the environment, on the climate, on some of the incredible work that you’ve done.
But I just wanted to say right off the bat that this agenda is one of the things that’s closest to my heart, President Biden’s, and of course when we’ve both worked with President Obama, that’s something he felt quite strongly. Because, as you know from your own experience, he is doing so many wonderful things to connect some of the most outstanding members of the younger generation here in Cambodia and throughout Southeast Asia with the United States , with young Americans, with our great universities and I hope not only to give you experience, knowledge and tools to develop the things you want to do at home, but also to create remarkable networks between you that last for a long time beyond your formal participation in the program.
Cambodia will host the next big session of YSEALI later this year. I think this is an opportunity to bring together another remarkable generation of young people. So we’re really, really looking forward to it. And at the same time, there is a very strong network here in Cambodia, the thousands of Cambodians who are part of the YSEALI network, the approximately 300 alumni at this stage. But I look forward to hearing from you about your experience with the program but also, above all, the work that you do, the experience that you have working to help protect the environment, to deal with the challenges that all of our countries facing climate change to build a truly sustainable future where people across Cambodia can support themselves, support their country.
I was just – by the way, I’m from a wonderful program that we have with Cambodians who work in the agricultural sector, and I’ve seen some of these remarkable products that we’ve helped partner to produce and export , from cashews to mangoes, but with respect for the environment. And all of that is, I think, a huge opportunity in the future to make sure that we do what is necessary to both protect our planet but also to give our people a chance. And I know each of you are working on it in different ways.
So I’m looking forward to not talking and really listening to each of you and having a conversation. So why don’t I stop there and we can open it.
MRS GARCIA: OK. Thank you sir. Well, to open it – oh, I think they want to clap. (Applause.) Good, good. So, to start, I’d like to hand over to Cynthia Chen (ph), who will start with a brief history of her experience.
QUESTION: So good morning, Mr. Secretary, and good morning, Mr. Ambassador, and good morning everyone. Really, thank you for coming here and (inaudible) with YSEALI. (Inaudible) ambassador working on the theme of fish migration and the water quality chain and (inaudible) the Mekong River.
Before YSEALI, I was not very good at school, but along the way I did a (inaudible). And I was surrounded by a lot of great people, and they kept telling me that you did a great job and that you should apply to YSEALI. But I keep going – I have some doubt because my GPA is only 2.0, and I kept questioning my ability to learn and grow. But with them to encourage me to apply for YSEALI, and I passed YSEALI, and during the scholarship, I met an inspiring woman named Susie Lacey (ph). It’s the best (inaudible). And she said to me, like, the first thing is to come and tell us in front of us young people that – the YSEALI fellows. She said thank you, and America is happy to have you here, and what you’ve done matters to this generation and the next generation.
Right now, I feel, like, awake because really, these things and – I mean, like, we really have these things as Cambodians. And we are young. We are very energetic. And with that support, that acknowledgment, that acknowledgment, we feel like it helps us live, just like a quarter of (inaudible) say he’s never too young to live.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks. What you said is really important because – and it’s especially important for me to hear this because one of the things that happens is that as you get older – (laughs) – you become more more rooted in your habits. Even if you try to be as open-minded as possible, we are all products of our own experiences and what we have done. And the most important thing is for all of you, this generation and the generation after you, to make sure that we think in new and fresh ways about the challenges we face.
And the simple truth is that just because we’ve done something one way for the past 50 years doesn’t mean we have to do it the same way for the next 50 years. So your ability to rethink things, see maybe how we can do something better, and then challenge all of us to do the same thing, that’s the most important thing. This is how we progress. So thanks.
MRS GARCIA: Good thanks alot. With that, I’d like to invite our friends from the press out.