Remarks by Ambassador Jean Manes at the San Salvador G.R.E.A.T. Graduation

G.R.E.A.T. San Salvador Graduation
Ambassador Jean Manes
Friday, June 2, 2017, 9:30 A.M., CIFCO


Remarks by Ambassador Jean Manes at the San Salvador G.R.E.A.T. Graduation


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

June 2, 2017

Good morning guys! Today is a day?

I can’t hear you… Today is a day?

O, now we are ready to go.

How glad to see these future leaders of El Salvador, who are now graduating from the GREAT Program. This is the first GREAT graduation in San Salvador. We started this program in 4 schools in Lourdes Colón back in 2009. The program has been so successful, it has expanded almost nationally and now has more than seventy thousand participants.

Sometimes we focus a lot on numbers.

I could tell you, that there are seventy thousand young people prepared to say “NO” to gangs.

Seventy thousand girls and boys and teenagers more confident.

Seventy thousand boys who want a better future for them, a future of peace.

But success is measured differently. Because behind each number there is a child, and behind each child there is a family, and behind each family, there is a community, and behind each community, there is a country.

Success is seeing teenagers take control of their lives and face their fears.

Success is seeing boys and girls take back their schools, painting murals, creating poems, competing in sports leagues.

Success is a 15-year-old boy in Usulután saying thank you for saving his life, because he was already in the gangs and decided to leave.

If we can save the life of a 15-year-old boy, all the effort, all the time, all the money has been worth it. Because every life is important, every life is worth it.

Growing up is very difficult.

Growing up is even harder for those who do not have their parents present, who live with grandparents and know their parents only through remittances and phone calls. It is more difficult for those who see one brother go to the gang and the other brother go to jail.

It is our responsibility as adults, as heads of family, as teachers, as leaders of our community, as government officials, to help those who need it.

GREAT is just a tool. GREAT only teaches young people to find the strength and intelligence they already possess, so that they can make the best decision in these difficult times.

All of us who are here today want the same thing: to break the cycle of crime and violence, which decimates the communities of El Salvador. That destroys lives so young, they haven’t even had time to really start. Prevent our children and youth from getting lost in gangs. This is the commitment that the US government has with El Salvador.

On June 15 of this year, our nations will celebrate for the first time, the day of friendship El Salvador – United States. But we believe that friendship is measured in positive actions. We firmly believe in the youth of this country, in their abilities and dreams. We are convinced that for the future of El Salvador, these children are needed here today, who want something different, something better, for themselves, for their family and community.

We therefore join forces with El Salvador’s efforts, by carrying out this program in municipalities that are part of the El Salvador Seguro Plan. The work belongs to everyone. I tell you with certainty that if the program has been successful, it is because of the commitment of all community members: school directors, teachers, and PNC agents. And most importantly, the commitment of you young people. Your commitment to fight for a better life. It is the work of all of you, together that builds strong communities that come together to face crime and violence. Your dedication to this program is what makes the difference.

And to you guys who are graduating today I want to say: Each of you is prepared to be a leader, a role model for a younger brother or sister. A model for someone who you do not know, but who is watching you, is seeing your actions. Someone to whom you can give confidence, that if you could do it, they can too. This is your responsibility, you who have already taken this program, that you learned to grow in another way.

The road ahead is not easy. You will encounter difficult moments. But I can assure you, everything worthwhile in life is difficult to achieve. The best tool you can have to face these moments is education and confidence in yourself. Learn from your mistakes, from the mistakes of others, and move on. It doesn’t matter if they trip on the road. What matters is that they get up, and keep walking. Because the future is what you decide to do with it.

I hope that each one of you always have in your heart everything you learned from the GREAT Program, that you finish school and set goals for the future. Have the confidence that there are people who really believe in you, that you can play an important role in changing this country.

Let’s keep working together, because perseverance transforms, and let’s make 2017 the year of positive action!

Later, we will sing together. We have a song that we are using as part of the celebration of friendship day between the United States and El Salvador on June 15. This song, written by Dennis Soriano, a very talented Salvadoran. I want you to hear the words of this song:

Together we can

In you I believe.

We are brothers, united, for a better country

Without excepeción.

Together we can make a better El Salvador