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Lonely Planet Magazine (US) - - Globetrotter -

ur­ing my time as pres­i­dent, I have trav­eled well over a mil­lion miles to ev­ery cor­ner of the world. These for­eign trips have in­cluded in­ter­na­tional sum­mits and bi­lat­eral vis­its that have been fun­da­men­tal to the progress that we’ve made – strength­en­ing al­liances, en­gag­ing for­mer ad­ver­saries, re­new­ing the global econ­omy, and forg­ing agree­ments to fight cli­mate change, stop the spread of nu­clear weapons, ex­pand commerce, and roll back poverty and dis­ease.

I leave of­fice more con­vinced than ever be­fore that in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion is in­dis­pens­able. I have al­ways be­lieved that our en­gage­ments with other coun­tries must not be lim­ited to gov­ern­ments; we also have to en­gage peo­ple around the world. In par­tic­u­lar, we must sus­tain our en­gage­ment with young peo­ple, who will de­ter­mine the fu­ture long after those of us in po­si­tions of power leave the world stage.

Con­sider the de­mo­graph­ics of our world. More than half of hu­man be­ings are 30 years old or younger. This is even more pro­nounced in the de­vel­op­ing world – that’s where 90 per­cent of the global pop­u­la­tion un­der 30 lives. These young peo­ple are liv­ing through rev­o­lu­tions in tech­nol­ogy that are re­mak­ing life on our planet, al­low­ing for un­prece­dented ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion and con­nec­tiv­ity, while also caus­ing enor­mous dis­rup­tions in the global econ­omy.

And while the world’s lead­ers dis­cuss the press­ing is­sues of the day, it is the world’s young peo­ple who will de­ter­mine whether their voices di­rect the change that is sweep­ing our world to­ward greater jus­tice, op­por­tu­nity, tol­er­ance, and mu­tual re­spect.

OBAMA BY THE NUM­BERS

That is why I have launched

Young Lead­ers Ini­tia­tives in

Africa, South­east Asia, and Latin

Amer­ica that are fo­cused on em­pow­er­ing youth – con­nect­ing them with one another, and with re­sources that can help them build a non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion, start a business, or be­gin a ca­reer in pub­lic ser­vice.

These ini­tia­tives in­clude on­line net­works, meet­ings at our diplo­matic posts, and ac­cess to grants, in­tern­ships, and op­por­tu­ni­ties to at­tend pro­grams at Amer­i­can col­leges and univer­si­ties. Half a mil­lion peo­ple un­der the age of 35 are now a part of these net­works. Over 3,000 of these young peo­ple have trav­eled to the U.S.

Ev­ery day, these young peo­ple are work­ing to im­prove their com­mu­ni­ties from the bot­tom up. A Rwan­dan en­tre­pre­neur is us­ing new tech­nolo­gies to pro­vide power to vil­lages that are off the grid. An ac­tivist from Thai­land has or­ga­nized young peo­ple across South­east Asia to fight hu­man traf­fick­ing. A city man­ager in the Philip­pines is launch­ing new ini­tia­tives to pro­mote women’s health and com­bat teen preg­nancy; to do so, she is draw­ing on skills she learned on a fel­low­ship in Mon­tana. Re­flect­ing on how far she’s come from her hum­ble begin­nings in a small vil­lage, she said: “The Young South­east Asian Lead­ers Ini­tia­tive is my life-chang­ing chap­ter.”

No one of these ini­tia­tives will trans­form our world. But each of them cre­ates a rip­ple of progress that can grad­u­ally bring the change that our world needs. And in talk­ing to these young peo­ple, one thing comes up again and again – the value that they gain from be­ing con­nected with one another. A Guinean who par­tic­i­pated in our Fel­low­ship pro­gram put it well: “When I made the trip to the U.S. and met all these ex­tra­or­di­nary young peo­ple from Africa, I re­al­ized how blessed I was to see and learn how I can make an im­pact on peo­ple’s lives. I also learned tol­er­ance and mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism. Although I have had many ex­pe­ri­ences around the world, meet­ing helped me make the de­ci­sion to im­pact mil­lions of lives around me.”

These ef­forts don’t make head­lines. But they re­flect the op­ti­mism that I have seen in young peo­ple from dif­fer­ent eth­nic­i­ties, re­li­gions and na­tion­al­i­ties all around the globe, in­clud­ing in the U.S. At a time when we are faced with so much di­vi­sion in global politics, young peo­ple are of­ten more tol­er­ant, more com­pas­sion­ate, and more com­mit­ted to work­ing to make change that ben­e­fits their com­mu­ni­ties from the bot­tom up. They give me hope, and I look for­ward to wit­ness­ing the ex­tra­or­di­nary change that they can make as they claim the man­tle of lead­er­ship.

coun­tries vis­ited dur­ing his time in of­fice pres­i­dents who vis­ited Laos, Cam­bo­dia and Myan­mar be­fore Obama

years since the last pres­i­dent vis­ited Cuba

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