About the Author: Nicholas Papp is Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
As the sun tried to break through the early morning mist in Putrajaya, Malaysia’s fantastic federal administrative center south of Kuala Lumpur, 3,000 of Southeast Asia’s most talented youth leaders began arriving in droves at the Youth Engagement Summit YES2009. Inspired by President Obama’s vision for hope and change, these active young leaders represent a rising generation working to build movements, catalyze change and transform lives in their communities, the region and beyond. World change icons including Twitter founder Biz Stone, Live8’s Bob Geldorf, chess champion Gary Kasparaov and real estate mogul Donald Trump personally spoke directly into the hearts and minds of these Southeast Asian youth motivating them to work collaboratively and in partnership to create the kind of meaningful and lasting change that can solve the world’s greatest problems.
The U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur was happy to partner with the organizers of this groundbreaking summit, strategically timed to coincide with President Obama’s trip to the region for APEC and the U.S.-ASEAN Summit. The Embassy’s public diplomacy team engaged these energized youth with the offer of a “free trip to Hollywood” via the Democracy Video Challenge. To get started thinking about the challenge, and to receive a prized Barack Obama postcard, hundreds of youth filled out a simple form completing the phrase “Democracy is…”
In her letter to the YES2009 participants, Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale expressed her “sincere desire to listen … and find ways we can collaborate for our common future.” We are listening. And here is what they had to say.
“…something fun, cool, exciting and 100% crazy.” – Suchada Prakanpawong from Thailand
“…being able to have choices and to make them.” – Wan Rozana Aziz Kasim from Malaysia
“…when both the people and the government talk and listen to each other wholeheartedly.” - Stephanie Kordjo from Indonesia
“…to the world what twitter is to media!!” – Ramakrishnan from India
“…giving to the people the freedom they deserve.” – Joanne Gonzales from the Philippines
“...people empowerment.” -- Rogelio Serena from the Philippines
“…freedom to do what I want to do and to be what I am. A freedom worth protecting and fighting for. A freedom worth dying for.” -- Kayzee from Malaysia
“…something which the U.S. is importing to Indonesia along with globalization. I totally support this as democracy has given a new era of leadership in Indonesia and it’s inextricably linked with tolerance of religions. I’m loving it. ^_^” – David from Indonesia
“…Hope for those who weren’t born rich; Hope for those who weren’t lucky; Hope for those who are minorities; Hope for those who feel helpless; Hope for equality and justice.” Natharat Monkolsinh from Thailand
“…just a word for Myanmar citizens. We Myanmar people are still waiting to experience the taste of Democracy. Please join together with us…” name withheld from Burma
“…Freedom to talk your own mind, Freedom to criticize your government, your politicians without fear; to have equal rights with everyone; to practice your own language and decide for your destination not some minority or government choose for you!” -- name withheld from Iran