Remarks by Ambassador William H. Duncan at the Oriente Lidera Program Graduation

March 1, 2023

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

We have a tendency to admire people like movie stars or athletes. But I personally admire young people like you because you are the ones who are going to decide the future of El Salvador as a democratic, safe and prosperous country with opportunities for all Salvadorans.

Sometimes we think of democracy as something that can be achieved and that’s it. However, democracy is something that is constantly being built. That constantly defends itself. And a lot of times this process looks messy and noisy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not working.

Today we celebrate his graduation, but his real challenge is outside these classrooms. In their classes they touched on many topics, such as access to information, transparency, the economic challenges facing El Salvador, because the economy of a country is closely linked to democracy.

Now that you have the knowledge, it’s time to put it into practice. To show that democracy is not just a cliché, something only of words, but how it influences all aspects of our lives. The problems that the country faces and that people worry about: earning a living, getting a decent job, having better services such as health, drinking water and education for their children, all of this depends on democracy.

It is up to you as young leaders to demonstrate the relationship between democracy and a better life. It is no coincidence that many of the world’s poorest countries have weak democracies. Emphasize the importance of the accountability of your public officials. Make the connection about how corruption steals resources that could be used to improve health care and education. Demonstrate how fair and democratic practices encourage more investment in the country, for more economic opportunity.

It is a great responsibility and without a doubt, it is a great challenge. However, they are not alone in this mission. They can look around them and know that they have allies right here, in their peers, their teachers, civil society groups. I really want to congratulate UNIVO for offering this program to the youth of the East. Because leadership is not only for the capital, but must extend to every corner of the country so that all young people have a voice. We are here because we believe in your abilities, because we see that there are many who want a prosperous and secure country, and it is truly a great honor to support you in this work.

For all this and much more, I admire young people like you, because they hold the power to build a country in their hands. It is without a doubt the most important thing you can do for yourself, for your families, for your communities and for the future of an entire nation.

I’m looking forward to seeing the projects you’ve already been working on. Like the one that Erika Samaria Medina Alvarenga has been working on to create a platform for youth across the country that promotes the exchange of policy analysis and youth leadership. Congratulations, Erika on being selected as a representative for her class due to her excellent academic achievements.

Congratulations to all of today’s graduates. I want everyone to know that your dedication and energy fill me with great hope for a good future for El Salvador.

Thank you very much and congratulations to all.