ASEAN youth meet with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

Youth leaders from member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met with United States Secretary of State John Kerry on October 10 in Brunei. The dialogue between Kerry and 25 young Southeast Asian leaders was one of the sidelights of the recently concluded ASEAN Summit, and was entitled “A Conversation with ASEAN Young Leaders.”

The young leaders came from various fields of interest, including community development, environmental causes, and leadership. The Brunei dialogue was facilitated by Joseph Anthony Quesada, manager of Ayala Foundation’s Youth Leadership program.

Kerry expressed his amazement at the changes taking place in ASEAN, especially in relation to the fact that a large percentage of the population (65 percent) is under 35 years old. “When you think about that, the future really belongs to you,” he said to the young audience.

”Don’t get impatient, even if you are fighting, struggling and watching things change, you have to keep doing it and it takes time,” advised Kerry. ”I want to know what  you see now as your greatest challenges, what you want people in my position to think about, what we should be trying to achieve together.”

Quesada, for his part, went on to say that the young people in ASEAN are in a strategic position to make changes. Inspiring and empowering them will lead to a better future for the region.

Delegates from the Philippines were Ayana Jamnia Maranda, a psychology major from the Mindanao State University–Iligan Institute of Technology, and John Patrick Allanegui, an MS candidate in social development at the Ateneo de Manila University.

Maranda’s passion for peace advocacy gave her the chance to participate in the National Youth Ambassadors Program for Peace in 2012. She is a recent graduate of the Philippine Youth Leadership Program 10 (PYLP 10), a U.S. Department of State youth exchange program. Meanwhile, Allanegui is a graduate of the Study of the U.S. Institutes program. His research focuses on gender performativity and women in the Philippine Navy. He is the managing editor of Verstehen, an online publication headquartered in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology of the Ateneo de Manila University, and he also assists the Manila Observatory with a baseline research project for Space Science Technology and Application.

The dialogue with Kerry serves as a preliminary event to the ASEAN Youth Leaders Summit scheduled on December 2 to 10 in the Philippines. Organized by Ayala Foundation in partnership with the United States Embassy in the Philippines, the program will gather ASEAN youth leaders and alumni of various U.S. Embassy youth programs. The three-day event features discussions, exposure trips, cultural exchange activities, and workshops in a formal conference setting and in an informal service learning environment.

The program hopes to establish a strong community of young leaders who are committed to carrying out programs and activities across the region. This community will also serve as a venue for them to share information and best practices, and learn from one another.

A total of 150 ASEAN youth are expected to participant in the summit. 

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