Universidad de Oriente
Ambassador Jean Manes
Tuesday, May 7, 2019, 11:00 A.M., UNIVO
Remarks by Ambassador Jean Manes at the Universidad de Oriente
May 7, 2019
* This is a courtesy translation. Only the original Spanish version should be considered authoritative.
I can tell you very sincerely that it is a great pleasure to share this afternoon with you, there are few things that fill me with the same energy as spending time with young people like you. Partly because there is nothing more motivating than seeing young people excel and do impressive things despite the difficulties. But also because they help me remember that great achievements are the result of many people working individually but for similar goals, in a persevering and relentless way.
When I think of Salvadoran youth, I think of a relentless force, a spirit that challenges the way things have always been done and asks: what if we do it differently? They are a generation of explorers of new virtual territories, of innovative technologies, and of different ways of thinking, and El Salvador needs young people who defy the norms to create something new. There are many young Salvadorans who are doing the same thing, following different paths and showing that there is no one way to achieve success. Today more than ever you have the tools to build your own future mainly thanks to technology which offers you opportunities to learn new skills, share your goals and dreams with people around the world, and forge networks of young people who, like you, are trying to follow his passions.
I want to share with you a story about two young people I met more than a year ago. They are from the same community and both grew up in a very similar environment – in economically difficult conditions, in a community that lacks many resources. They both took different paths, but both have been enormously successful. Their names are Mario and Bryan, and for me they represent important aspects of the spirit of the youth of El Salvador.
Mario, who is 19 today, decided at a very young age that he wanted to become a videographer and photographer. Someone gave him his first camera, but he had to learn how to take photos and record videos. You couldn’t pay for photography classes, but you did have other tools at your disposal: the internet. Still, his internet access was limited, but he took every opportunity to search YouTube videos to learn how to improve his technique. You can imagine that taking those shocking photos of these athletes surfing a wave is not easy. Everything is in constant motion – the water, the surfers – there is a lot of sun and a lot of glare, and everything happens in an instant. And of course, they are waves, if you lose it, you cannot recover it.
Seeing the quality of his work, a visitor from the United States took Mario to his studio in Los Angeles to do an internship, where he learned to perfect his art. Now it is a sensation, and every time an outside surfer comes and wants recordings of his surf in El Zonte, they look for Mario. His videos have been seen on the internet in both countries and many other parts of the world. Did he have natural talent? Insurance. But most importantly, Mario is working to create his own future.
There is this idea that the key to success is being incredibly talented, but the reality is that talent is only a small part of success.
Bryan also came from humble conditions. Bryan lived with his mother in a small town on the outskirts of La Libertad and started surfing at age 10, terrified of fear of the power of the sea. But with the support of his family and his community, he decided to continue surfing.
A few years ago, he suffered a devastating loss. His younger sister was the victim of a random shooting in which he died, and it is a tragedy from which he still has not recovered. It is a tragic reality that many Salvadorans have gone through. Regardless, Bryan continued to train and in the midst of this tragedy, Bryan won the El Salvador Surf Championship in 2014.
Since then Bryan has continued training and participating in international competitions and is in the same category as the best surfers in the world. It is a name he has earned, working part-time to hone his natural talent, and is now preparing to represent El Salvador at the Olympics. Bryan certainly has a lot of talent. But most importantly, Bryan is also working to create his own future.
I could tell you hundreds, even thousands of similar stories of young Salvadorans that I have known during the three years around the country. Each of these young people has decided not to wait for someone to offer them an opportunity, they have taken the reins of their own destiny and they have used their talent and creativity for something that no one believed possible.
It is easy to see these young people and say: wow, how lucky!
We have a saying in English: luck is when preparation meets opportunity.
But preparation implies discipline, dedication, knowing how to take advantage of time, and a commitment to constant improvement. Let’s see, raise your hand, how many of you here have access to the internet, either from your homes or your cell phone?
How many of you watch videos on YouTube?
The rector also watches videos on YouTube.
Now how many of you watch YouTube videos to learn some new skill?
I see that some of you had the same idea of Mario, because that is what he did, look for videos on youtube to learn about photography.
Having talent is important, but it is not the most important thing. It may be the spark that starts the engine, but what fuels this engine is passion. A passion for chasing a dream is what helped him find solutions to the obstacles he had on the way to becoming a photographer.
Mario has been preparing for years, using his limited resources, thinking creatively to find solutions to his obstacles. He has been taking photos for years, saving to buy new cameras and new lenses. And therefore when the opportunity to take the internship came, he was able to take advantage of it.
And Bryan had to start with something that scared him at first, the power of the sea, and he wasn’t sure he could reach it. Luck does not exist. Luck is done. It is done every day, when we choose to prepare ourselves to achieve our dreams and our goals. When we make the most of all our resources: our talent, our ability, our time, and we decide to build something with this. We can stay waiting a lifetime for an opportunity. Or we can decide to do everything we can to create our own opportunity.
You have incredible tools at your disposal, you are the most interconnected generation in the history of humanity, with the ability to build and lead networks, to develop new services, to cross borders that were previously impossible. Those networks will help them solve problems that they could never solve on their own. Use these amazing tools to find solutions to the problems you share.
Use these tools to make your voice heard.
El Salvador needs a transformative force, generator of change, ready to create a future through innovation and creativity.
Sometimes we think that the newest and most innovative things always come from big countries. But in reality being small also has its advantages, because small countries have the capacity to learn and adapt more quickly, and to promote new ways of doing things. There are ways to capitalize on your natural benefits, it’s just about thinking and acting differently. And the technology they have access to is now able to dramatically reduce the time, cost, and obstacles to creating new prototypes, services, apps, and products that the world wants to purchase.
What energy resource does El Salvador have in abundance? We have been very sorry this Easter because it has been very hot.
At this very moment, thanks to research from Rutgers University, Don Bosco University and the Salvadoran company IMFICA, El Salvador has a prototype solar collector created by Salvadorans, with Salvadoran materials, which have the same capacity as available counterparts in the global market and at the same price. Finding renewable energy sources that are economically and ecologically sustainable is a dream for every country in the world, and El Salvador already has this technology.
Why can’t El Salvador be a leader in new innovative technologies? Why cannot El Salvador be an example in promoting new approaches in the environment for sustainable economic growth?
There is no reason why it should not be. Furthermore, El Salvador has the first fully self-sufficient building in its energy production in Central America. The first zero net energy building in all of Central America. This building was developed and constructed here, in El Salvador, at the UCA, with young people like you, and it is an incredible example of the leadership skills that exist in this country.
The key now is to multiply these achievements and make them role models.
Why can’t El Salvador be a tourist center like Costa Rica? They have a beautiful country, I know why I have had the immense privilege of visiting each department of El Salvador. I have known its beaches, its mountains, its volcanoes, its lakes. And if you think that size is a problem, I assure you, no. There are not many places in the world where you can surf in the morning, have lunch on a volcano and dine in a historic center in just one day.
One of the big problems that discourage tourism is the security situation in El Salvador. However, there is considerable progress in this area. In the past three years, homicides have decreased by 52%, a trajectory that continues in 2019. And all indicators of other violent crime also decreased in the same period. And at the same time, in 2018 there was a 14% increase in tourists from the United States. These are signs that the direction of the country is changing, little by little, and that a country free of violence is possible.
Why can’t El Salvador have a film industry like Mexico? I assure you that it is not for lack of stories to tell. And there are people with great talent who are promoting this sector quite strongly at this very moment.
El Salvador already has everything it needs to become an economy of the future. But for that to happen you cannot depend on the past. You may not want to be a filmmaker or a surfer. That is not what matters. What matters is that they develop the same characteristics that they and many others who have accomplished something have in common – the desire to work to create their own future, the courage to pursue their passions, to develop their talents, to explore new technologies.
You are the protagonists of this vision for the future of your own country, and you must demand that you have every opportunity to succeed. Make your way in the decision spaces. Look for platforms to express your needs, look for those spaces in your community. Exercise your right as citizens to participate in decision making in the most direct way possible. El Salvador has many youth associations that seek to participate in different sectors of society, in politics, at the community level and in different unions.
Because there are things that limit your creativity and talent, such as corruption, bureaucratic inefficiency, lack of transparency affect your opportunities.
Insist that they get what they need from the government to prosper. Insist that they consider your opinion. The moment is now. There is no other. I believe that your country is in a historic moment and you have a window of opportunity to move your country forward. It is important that you take advantage of this moment, because your country needs you. Your country needs all your passion, your commitment, your will and now is your time. And I have absolute confidence in the ability of all of you.
Some people have asked me why I have spent so much time with young people in the past three years. And my answer is simple: because I believe in you. I believe in your talent. I believe in the possibility that you will lead this country and change the trajectory of this country. Is not easy. But each of you can do it and your country needs you.
I want to thank each of you and it may be that in a few months I will leave the country, but I will continue to look at what each of you is doing, and I will be following your progress and the progress of Bryan and Mario who are watching us on Facebook live. Because we have confidence in you, and we have confidence in Salvadorans and in your ability to lead your country.