Remarks by Ambassador Jean Manes at the DigiGirlz event

Ambassador Jean Elizabeth Manes

March 8, 8:00 AM, FUSADES

* This is a courtesy translation. Only the original Spanish language text should be considered authoritative.

Some of you might not know yet what your passion is.  This day is very special, because for many of you, perhaps even for all, today marks the beginning of an adventure. It may be the first chapter of the story you will write about who you are and where you want to go.

I’m going to tell you a story about when I started university. I loved playing volleyball. It was my passion, day and night. I attended classes to play volleyball. I played every day.  I led my team all the way from when I went to high school, before university, and we had won many awards with our team, including state competitions. And when I got to the university I kept playing volleyball. We also had a coach, who was from the men’s volley team. It was always my passion and I always thought about it, and when I got to university, I kept playing.

Normally, in the United States, in the first two years of the university, we take the same basic classes again. That is not fair., you don’t do that, you start with real classes of what you are studying in the university, but in the United States you redo the same subjects from high school. With mathematics, with science, with all things the first two years. Then, during my second year, I finally had my first class in my career; I was studying International Relations.

This class was only once a week, on Mondays from six in the evening to nine-thirty in the evening, three-and-a-half hours. So, I went a little nervously to this class because it was really the first class of my career. I arrived and there was this teacher. And I had heard that this teacher was tough. All teachers have a reputation, but this teacher was the teacher of almost every class of my career. I knew that I was not only going to have this class with him, but that almost all the rest of my time at the university was going to be with this professor. I came to this class and there were about twenty people in the class and they gave us our homework. I had to make a presentation about a chapter and present it to the class. Then I did what I usually did; I focused on volleyball, on our games and practices, and came to the class more or less prepared, a few days later — not so much, if we speak the truth. And it was my turn to give my presentation to the class. And I gave my presentation and I felt good, and after the presentation my teacher said: this was the worst presentation I’ve ever heard.

And I was like: what? I could not believe it!  And in front of all my colleagues in the class! I went back to my dorm crying. And, of course, who do you call at that moment? Your best friend. When something happens, you are going to call your best friend. Right? I called my best friend from the university and I said: I can not believe what happened in this class; this teacher is crazy. It was all the teacher’s fault, of course;, it was not my fault.

After this stage of crying and blaming my teacher, I started to think. He really was right, because I still had not changed my actions to align with my new passion. I was still clinging to my previous passion of playing volleyball, and I had to make a decision: either to continue investing all my effort, my energy, all my creativity in playing volleyball, or, if I wanted to change, to invest all this energy, all this focus, all this passion in International Relations. And, obviously, I chose to change.

When you find your passion, you have to put all your efforts in that. You can not enter it doing things halfways. That does not work. If you are going to do something, do it, and do it with all your heart. Do it with all your effort. With all your creativity, with all your energy. Do it and do it well. This is the message for you all.

It may be that some of you are thinking: “I have not yet found this passion that all the people are talking about.” And that’s okay! The way to find your passion is to keep trying new things. I do not know about you, but my daughters – I have two daughters, 22 and 21 years old, that’s why I feel young at heart – we love TED Talks. I love them and so do my daughters. And we are  always sending messages back and forth about them, saying “did you see this TED Talk?” But I love TED Talks because every time I can see something new. I can look at something new: brain research, unheard-of technology, or innovation in education. Every time I find new things that I am not studying every day. But I love that because that’s the way to keep growing.

If you have not yet found your passion, the thing that really makes you get up in the morning, keep looking, keep trying. The best thing you can do is what you are doing now, surround yourself with people who also have an interest in the world. They want to try new things, see other ways.

When I was in college I went to a fairly conservative university. And by fairly conservative I mean very conservative. And for women there were not so many expectations. Including most of my colleagues, their parents and even themselves, didn’t care about how they were doing in class, or what they were studying. They wanted to graduate with MRS degree. Do you know what that is, a MRS degree? Being married. You think I’m kidding. I’m not kidding. That was the achievement for women, if you could graduate with a man. Oh my God!  Really, is that the goal? To leave the university with a man?

Well, luckily the world has changed. But not so much. And I believe that you can decide the path that each one of you wants. This type of program, what I think is important is that you can see what your possibilities are, because the possibilities that you have are endless. You can do anything you want. That is the message of today, take advantage of these opportunities. In this room are women who want to achieve their goals. Create this network among you, this network of support because surely this path will not be easy. You will have very difficult days.  You will have days when nobody will believe in you, when no one will support you, when you will feel that you can not keep going. But if you have this network where you can support the dreams of each other, and say to each other that you can do it, especially on those difficult days, you can achieve anything. On our behalf, we believe in you and I believe in you.

I know some people say we can not say Happy Women’s Day, because we have to say we are commemorating Women’s Day, but, Happy Women’s Day! I am happy, you are happy! To all of you, we thank you for the work you are doing. It’s worth it.  Keep fighting for your dreams and I have the confidence that you are going to lead this country, the region, and even the world.

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* This is a courtesy translation. Only the original Spanish language text should be considered authoritative.