Ambassador Nina Hachigian’s Remarks at YSEALI Generation: Power of Entrepreneurship Workshop

Lady speaking at podium. (Mission Image)Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Good Afternoon!

I am truly honored to be here with you, young ASEAN leaders.

I would like to say thank you to the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City and Making Cents for inviting me to participate in this YSEALI Generation: Power of Entrepreneurship Workshop.To give you a sense of how much I wanted to be here, I had to wake up at 4 and bring my kids with me.

I looked at your schedule and it looks like a fantastic program that I wish I could have gotten into. One of the best parts of my job is meeting and getting to know the young people of Southeast Asia.  Young people like you will determine the future of the region.

When President Obama was first elected, he saw what I do, that ASEAN is  a regional powerhouse, 10 countries strong, representing well over 600 million people, and so he stepped up the U.S. relationship with ASEAN. The U.S. was the first country to appoint a permanent Ambassador.  I am the 2nd.

The U.S. knows that our economic, political and social future is tied to ASEAN. American companies invest more here than they do in China.  And if you add up all our investments, American businesses have invested the most in Southeast Asia of y country.  In fact, more than Chinese, Japanese and Korean companies all combined.

As we all know, 2015 is a significant year for ASEAN – it will come together even more closely as an economic community.  The goal of the ASEAN Economic Community is to make life better and easier for the people of ASEAN. It will be a gradual process, but the AEC will mean more prosperity, and more opportunity for most, especially you entrepreneurs who will eventually be able to work across all ten countries. And a more prosperous, more integrated Southeast Asia will mean a more secure and stable Asia-Pacific region.

This is all great for the United States and so the United States has supported the AEC in a variety of ways.  In the past few years, we partnered with U.S. companies to train over 3,500 SME owners in all ten ASEAN countries to support economic development.

We helped launch the ASEAN women’s entrepreneurial network because many, many studies have shown that when countries include women fully in the workforce they can add hugely to economic growth.  Research also shows that investments in women benefit the whole society.The U.S. has also for 8 years supported the development of the ASEAN Single Window, which will facilitate imports and exports by reducing red tape.

For years to come, Southeast Asia will continue to play a significant role in promoting economic prosperity for the United States, the region and the world.Its growing middle class and young workforce are two reasons for that, and a third is ASEAN, the organization, which helps underwrite peace in the region and is charting the course for the ASEAN Economic Community.

Now let’s talk about you, because you have an important role to play in the future of your region.

First, because you are entrepreneurs, you will be the true engines of growth in ASEAN.

President Obama has said that “we believe in the power of entrepreneurship – the basic notion that if you’ve got an idea and if you really work hard and you’re able to pick yourself up if you stumble a couple of times, you can eventually turn that idea into a reality.  And this matters to us, because encouraging the spirit of entrepreneurship can help us to tackle some of the greatest challenges that we face around the world.”

You know that Entrepreneurs intent on growing their businesses create the majority of new jobs, in every country and in every industry.  Startups can have a tremendous impact not just on job creation, but in solving real problems.

The second reason you have an important role is because you are the future leaders of ASEAN.

One of the most important items on my agenda as the U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN, in fact, at the very top of my list, is to help advance young people like you. With a full 65% of ASEAN’s population under the age of 35, the future here clearly relies on engaging and empowering you guys.

You may already know this but in the little over a year that YSEALI began, over 35,000 young people across ASEAN have joined. I hope you agree that YSEALI is helping foster integration by helping create an ASEAN identify.  So tell your friends about YSEALI.  You are now officially ASEAN ambassadors like I am.

Peter Drucker, the eminent management consultant, once said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”  I hope that this YSEALI Generation workshop will enhance your skills, give you a new group of friends, and offer ideas and inspiration for your future.

Now, you are innovators, entrepreneurs.  So you know that ideas are powerful.  You know that if you have a better idea how to solve a problem, you can help people and make a lot of money.  Well, that is true in my world of politics and diplomacy too. Well, not the money part.  But ideas are powerful and can change the world.

You can be a low-level person but if you have a boss who listens and a good idea, that idea can become a reality and transform the landscape.

You will need patience and perseverance.  Stick with your ideas, be loyal to your ideas, even when the going gets rough, and here is the most important thing I will say: I’m sure others have said this but it bears repeating.

Failure is OK.

One of the secrets of success of the American innovation system is that we let people fail and try again.  Thanks God I didn’t get some of the jobs I wanted because I wouldn’t be here if I had.

And as a young entrepreneur, always keep this in the back of your mind:  If you don’t build your own dream, someone else will hire you to build theirs.  That might be ok for a while, but try to come back to your own dream.

I am confident that the future for ASEAN is bright – especially with young leaders like you!

I’ll end with a final quote from President Obama. He said “I believe that entrepreneurs like you can make the world a better place, one idea at a time.  And you’re going to be how change happens – one person, one step, one business, one city, one country at a time”

Thank you all and I look forward to hearing your pitches!

Kids sitting in a circle. (Mission Image)