Dallas, 23 May 2015
I am grateful to all those who organised this forum. Seeing all these young Rwandans, makes me think that this gathering is long overdue.
I thank all of you, who have come from near and far, brought together by love for the motherland, that is the birth right of every single Rwandan, no matter where you were born, or where you live.
My job today is to challenge you. But also to remind you of the immense opportunities that are within our reach.
Rwanda was liberated by young people like you. We listened to our conscience, and recognised our duty to fight injustice.
Many of us gave our youth to this cause. So many others gave their lives, to the struggle, so that you would not have to.
These sacrifices were not in vain, because they brought the first stages of the liberation of our country.
And Rwanda, let me assure you, is doing well. But the journey before us is still long. The liberation mindset must remain alive in all of us, until we achieve social and economic transformation.
The challenges Rwanda faces today, are less dramatic than in the past, yet in many ways, they remain complex.
In fact, compared to the past, we can even say we are lucky to have such problems.
We need a new generation of problem-solvers, who see farther, and work smarter.
You are that generation. No matter where you live, you have a role to play.
Let’s recall where we’re coming from:
- Twenty years ago, the world saw Rwandans as a people fit only for hating and killing each other. Now they complain that we pursue our development goals too energetically. That’s not a bad problem to have.
- By1994, Rwanda had produced around 2,000 university graduates in total for all decades. Today, 11,000 people graduate every year, and we worry about improving educational quality. That’s a better problem to have.
- Rwandans used to accept power blackouts/outages as normal, if they had electricity at all. Today, just look at how people tweet their dissatisfaction at the power company, if the lights go out, for even an hour. We still need to produce a lot more energy, but we are keeping environmental sustainability in mind, as we do so. That’s a problem we didn’t think about before.
- Rwandans used to die from malaria and other preventable diseases in the tens of thousands, young children most of all.
But today we have witnessed the fastest rate of reduction of these mortalities in the whole history. Now we have a specialist cancer hospital near Musanze.Cancer is a problem, that we did not have the luxury to even acknowledge before.
This is what progress looks like. The easy problems begin to fade into memory, and harder ones present themselves. Our expectations and standards are higher, but so too is our prosperity and well-being.
This momentum is fuelled by Rwanda’s indispensible value, agaciro, the dignity that comes from being responsible for ourselves, and proud of who we are.
Without this compass, to guide us from generation to generation, we risk losing what progress has been made.
As children of Rwanda, you are the guardians of this legacy of agaciro. Let it be reflected every day in your thoughts, words, and above all, deeds.
First, agaciro means that you try to understand the world we live in, you are not afraid to question assumptions.
For example, why do so many of us Africans continue to depend on others, given all the resources that we have?
Why do we accept endless lessons in human rights and democracy, from people who never lack for excuses and justifications, for their own shortcomings and even crimes?
You must understand and learn to recognise, these unjust expectations, so you can reject them.
Second, you must maintain a focus on excellence and results. All the inspiration and values you have, will amount to nothing, if they are not put into action every day, in the service of your goals.
The discipline of perfecting the small things that matter, is what forms life-long habits, and results in big achievements, whether for an individual or a country,
I see it all the time when I am here in the western world, or in other countries say in Asia, that are far ahead of anyone else.
From innovation in technology and business, to quality customer service, there is pride in professionalism and attention to details, that we should not fail to learn from and practise ourselves.
So, do not accept or tolerate mediocrity, in yourselves or in others. Defy the low expectations that some may have of you, or that you may even have of yourself.
You simply do not have the luxury of getting tired or giving up. In the end, it will cost you, those around you, and your country, more than you realise.
Finally and most importantly, as you continue to acquire valuable, education, skills and experience, guard preciously and proudly your Rwandan identity.
What you gain here, should add to who you are as a person and make you a better Rwandan. In the same way that we are constantly trying to make Rwanda better. But the values you hold, and what you believe in, is what makes all the difference.
Don’t let what the system you operate in, diminish you as a person.
Nothing should make you think that your identity and background is somehow inferior. You are as important and relevant as anyone else.
When I see you, I see Rwanda.
Your generation makes up 70% of our population. Imagine how much strength there is, in these millions of Rwandans, working towards the same goals.
Solving difficult problems is part of us now. We are always thinking of how to do much more and better, to build a strong nation of strong individuals.
Rwanda has very high ambitions, and few resources, but we must get there because we have you. There are no apologies to be made about this. This is the mindset of a nation, that has chosen agaciro for itself.
There are many ways to express your patriotism, many ways to love your country, and many ways to join your fellow Rwandans in nation-building, as we contribute to a better world, in which we all want to live.
If you’re here today, it’s because your country remains close to your heart and you want to be part of this journey. I cannot choose for you how to make your contribution, but I trust you to make the right choice. Find your way, and commit to it. We will deliver our country to where we want it to be.
Thank you and God bless you.