Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at the Young Americas Forum

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
Los Angeles, California
June 9, 2022


You guys have had a long day I guess, huh? Well, my name is Linda. And I’m really excited to be here with you today and I know you’ve had a very long, very busy day, but I’m really honored to be your last speaker of the day. I’m honored to be here with you in Los Angeles, and I think this is a real fitting geographic and demographic nexus of the Americas. And I’m particularly honored to be closing out the Young Americans Forum.

Let me start by thanking the Young America’s Business Trust for organizing all of you. I don’t know if there’s anyone from the Business Trust in the room, but we should give you a hand of applause. Because without them, we might not be here today. And I want to thank all of you for your work today – and for all the work you do year-round, you elevate tens of thousands of young people in dozens of countries around the world.

And to all of our youth delegates: congratulations! It’s really been an incredible week of achievement for all of you. You have forged connections, you’ve built up trust, you’ve produced a Youth Declaration and showed the world what the future of the Americas look like.

And that future, I have to tell you, is extraordinarily bright. And I saw it for myself just a few minutes ago, when I met three of your colleagues. I met Tracie Mendez Saravia, and Ces Mariane Badillo, and Angela Huarachi Tapia – are you in the room? I just talked to them outside. Tracy is leading a group of girls as young as 12 to take down the barriers that prevent women and girls from reporting gender-based violence in Guatemala. And Seth is helping young LGBTQI+ people engage in inclusive peacebuilding efforts in Colombia. Angela is helping women minors improve their productivity, occupational safety, and receive a fair price for their work. And I know that all of you are doing similar work throughout the region in the countries you’re from. I was so inspired by the three of them, but I’m equally inspired by all of you. I have seen with my own eyes how you are preparing to lead our future and transform the world for the better.

And that’s so important right now because the challenges that you are inheriting – what we have passed on to you – are extraordinarily great. We hold the Summit of the Americas every three years so that we, as a hemisphere, can meet to discuss our shared problems, and look for shared opportunities. Challenges like COVID-19, and the economic crisis that it created. Challenges like migration, and the political unrest that inspires it. Challenges like climate change, and authoritarianism, that threaten everything that we hold dear. These are some of our world’s biggest problems, but they also present opportunities for all of us – they present opportunities that allow us to forge bonds, to share resources, to learn from each other, to collaborate with one another.

And as you know, this year’s theme is Building a Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable Future. I’m going to let you in on a secret. The future that we keep talking about? The sustainable, equitable future that we’re talking about? That future that we are building? The one we hope is sustainable, resilient, and equitable? It’s going to be for you. It’s for you. But we need your help in building it. Because the truth is, my generation has not always gotten it right. My generation is leaving you, unfortunately, with far too many burdens. And, unfortunately, that’s how it goes. The folks coming before you, we try our best. We try our best, hopefully, with the hope that we will get some things right, but we know that we get a lot of things wrong. Every generation has to learn new lessons and find new ways of building a better world.

So that’s going to be up to you – we’re looking to you for your innovation, we’re looking to you for your leadership, we’re looking to you to rebuild and refresh our policies, our economies, our health systems. We’re looking to you to steward our hemisphere in the right direction.

For our part, President Biden is committed to joining you on this journey. We are strengthening our linkages with your countries and we’re investing in your futures. We’re supporting programs like the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative to make sure entrepreneurs across the Americas get to know each other and find ways to work together. And I will tell you, these are not in my remarks – I was involved as the Assistant Secretary for Africa in setting up the Young African Leaders Initiative. And we have – the last time I checked – over fourteen, fifteen thousand young people across Africa who are connected to each other and who are planning together, and who are collaborating together and organizing each other. And I see that happening as well with all of you.

So, we’re helping you to build partnerships among the hemisphere’s colleges and universities, through the 100,000 Strong in the Americas program, so that the young people of the Americas can participate in exchange programs, learn from each other, and strengthen relationships across the hemisphere. And that, of course, is what this summit and this forum is all about. It’s about forging bonds and ensuring that we work on the future, right now, here in the present.

You know, when I go abroad and meet with world leaders or foreign dignitaries, I often give them a gift – it’s a book of poems by one of my favorite poets, Amanda Gorman. Amanda was born and raised right here in Los Angeles and delivered a poem at President Biden’s inauguration when she was just 22 years old. Since I share Amanda’s poems with our world’s leaders, and you are the next generation of world leaders, I feel it is only fitting to share some of her words with you today too. One of my favorite poems of hers, The Miracle of Mornings, which she wrote in reaction to the pandemic that afflicted us all. I’m going to have to put my glasses on. In it, Amanda recognizes that while we all experienced loss and tragedy because of the pandemic, a certain kind of hope could emerge from the loss. And she writes:

While we might feel small, separate, and all alone
Our people have never been more closely tethered
The question isn’t if we will weather this unknown
But how we will weather this unknown together.

But how we will weather this unknown together. Youth delegates, the question is not if we will weather this unknown, but how we will weather it together. And after this week, and this forum, I feel confident that you will weather these challenges together sustainably, equitably, with fortitude, with resilience. And I know you will deliver a better future for yourselves and the generations to come.

And I always like to end any remarks that I give to audiences of young people with encouraging you to be compassionate, be kind. Because sometimes we forget how far kindness can get us, how far our compassion and our commitment can get us. And if you’re kind along the way, people will always remember how you treated them, not what you said to them, not what you give them, but how you made them feel. And if you’re kind, you make people feel that you care, so thank you very much.