Young leaders in Burma sat down with senior State Department officials in Rangoon on June 9 to talk about the issues that matter most to them. The group actively discussed ASEAN identity, American partnership, and what youths can do for a brighter future.
Following a question about how the U.S. can help economic and social development in Burma, U.S. Department of State Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Daniel Russel, responded, “If I could summarize American strategy for Burma, for Myanmar, and frankly for Asia-Pacific, in one word, I would choose the word ‘Choices.’ We want you to be able to make your own choices. We want to you to make your choices freely. We want you to make educated choices and we want you to have choices.”
Another youth asked about how Americans worked to promote democracy in the United States and what lessons young people in Burma can take away from the American experience. To this Assistant Secretary Russel responded, “Your voice has to be heard for Myanmar to be a true democracy. I don’t mean you have to protest. I don’t mean you have to yell. But, you have to have something to say. You have to have some passion and you have to have a goal. What is it that is important to you? What’s important in your neighborhood? How can you make better? What’s important in your school or your work place? How can you make it better? The greatest success ultimately will go to the people and the group with the best ideas and the ability to explain them.”
The Young South East Asia Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) is a presidential initiative that aims to promote unity within Myanmar and within all of ASEAN. The youth participating in the discussion with Assistant Secretary Russel were YSEALI members and alumni.