Speech by Iman Usman at the Closing of 9th UN Youth Assembly in New York


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Iman Usman delivered this speech before receiving The Youth Assembly Recognition for Excellence Award at the United Nations, August 5th 2011

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Speech by Iman Usman at the Closing of 9th UN Youth Assembly in New York

  1. 1. Dream: a pathway to change Delivered by Iman Usman (19) from Indonesia at the 9th UN Youth Assembly in New YorkGood afternoon everyone, it is indeed an honor for me to be here with you alltoday. Thank you for the UN Youth Assembly for inviting me. I feel the excitementof passionate young leaders in this room, and it makes me more than excited.I’d like to begin with a story of a kid, a 10 year-old boy, living in a small town inIndonesia. He was a normal kid, not a child prodigy, who found himself powerlessand talentless. But the one thing he had – he had a dream.Since he was child, he was the one who believed in dreams. For him, a lifewithout dreams was just like driving without a destination. Dreams became thestepping stones and foundation of enjoying his life – making it valuable to theworld. His dream was simple, but most people thought that it was too big, or eventoo idealistic. But he believed that there is no dream too big, because it is not adream if it is not big.He just wanted a better world, a better place for every single child in the world tolive, to survive, and to develop. When he was a child, he was treated unjustly. Hisopinion was dismissed. His voice was deemed meaningless by society. He hadnowhere to speak his ideas, and bring them to action.He also saw that many kids felt the same as he did. He did not come from awealthy or well-educated family. But, he believed these challenges should not bejustifications to undermine or discriminate against him. That 10-year-old kidinsisted, and reminds me every day: that no matter what your background is, nomatter how old you are, you are a human being with rights and liberty.The painful realities he endured led him to embark the journey in improving hisown quality of life, and step-by-step, try to improve the quality of human beings 1
  2. 2. around him. He believed that he couldn’t wait for someone to come and fix his life– he was the one to fix it. He was very passionate about the struggle to empowerchildren, the future generation.His story of movement began with a blackboard. When he was 10 he found thatmany kids in the neighborhood couldn’t access books and other sources ofinformation. So, he established a free course for underprivileged children. Lateron, he established a small library in front of his house. It’s His hope that thissmall action would lead him to a larger action with a bigger impact. He becameinvolved in various communities, journalism, entrepreneurship programs, andactive in advocating for child rights issues when he was elected as SecretaryGeneral for a children’s forum in his province. He conducted various campaigns,initiated and coached various brands on social activism, particularly on thepromotion of the achievement of the MDGs. Until he moved to the capital town forstudy, and the study could not stop his momentum of change as he thought thathe need to do a bigger action.Then, he founded a youth-led NGO concerning youth empowerment for socialchange. With his team, he went from school to school, campus to campus, todeliver capacity building and inspire youths to believe and achieve their dreams.He conducted various community development projects to achieve the MDGs, aswell as advocacy on youth-related issues by mobilizing thousands members andmore than 500 volunteers who impacted thousands lives.The story of this kid is really meaningful and has a lot of correlation to myself.That kid is in front of you all right now, that’s the story of me.I share this story not for the sake of mentioning my achievement. It is because Ijust want to tell you that when I started to “do something”, I was nothingcompared to you all today but I know I holding the part of the bright future of mycountry. 2
  3. 3. I couldn’t speak any language beside my mother tongue but I know I can speakthe word of change.I couldn’t play any musical instrument, sing, dance, or anything else that I can beproud of but I listened to the tune in my heart.I knew my dream and my past experiences that lead me to make a difference. Ihad the courage. Even today, I am still that 10 year-old boy, with a bigger vision,with a bigger dream to achieve, with more friends at my back for support.People have told to me that “serving humanity is like giving life to the lifeless”,but for me, it is not only for the lifeless, but also for ourselves. We can make ourlife bigger than we can think. People often say that volunteering and activism only waste time, energy, andeven money. But what I learned is this: you will not lose anything by being agiver; instead you will received many things that you never expected.It is in my wildest dream to be invited to various international forums and havethe opportunity to speak on behalf young people. I never expected to earn trustas a consultant for various government projects and United Nation agencies atthe age of 19. I never expected have a privilege of invitations by vice presidents,ministers, parliaments in my country due to what my team and I have done. Andthe most important thing, I never expected to see people smiling because of whatI do. It is a blessing to make people feel blessed and happy as they are with you.And finally, I could do something.Each one of us can do something.In last 3 years, I had the opportunity to travel to dozens of countries, speak,share, and learn from one person to thousands. I am inspired by thousands ofchildren’s dreams around the world and help them to realize their potential, tomake the impossible possible, and the unexpected happen. 3
  4. 4. And one of them is We Are Family Foundation’s Three Dot Dash – Just PeaceSummit. I have a priceless honor as one of 31 Global Teen Leader representing 12different countries and five continents this past March. I meet bright minds withother 30 teen leaders at the Summit in New York. It was great to meet and beconnected with these amazing youth, where we collaborate together to amplifyour work and encourage millions of people to replicate our positive messagesand get involved.We share best practices, and support each other, even after the Summit haspassed. With this global network, all Global Teen Leader alumni have alreadymade a direct impact to more than 4 million people globally, and the numberskeep growing. It is interesting and enlightening to see the power of youths, andhow their passion can impact mother earth. We connected because of our samehopes, compassion, courage, and passion.We are so blessed to be part of Generation21, to be the generation who lives in21st century, with all technology supports around us, that make it easier for us todo something collectively and globally.A borderless worldBut it also provides various challenges that we have to overcome. We canconvert challenges into opportunities.Being part of these movement brought me many surprises in life. I do believe thatthere are still more surprises ahead, but that’s not the point. The point is, themore people appreciate youth involvement, the better a sign it is for youth to beheard and get the opportunity to be a part of the solution. What I believe is thatopportunity itself is not ascribed, it is not something that we have to wait for – wecan create our own opportunities. Just keep your eyes open.Once more, I would like to say, that this moment is very meaningful for me. Thank 4
  5. 5. you to everyone who has supported me since the beginning. Thanks to my mom,my dad, my family, my coaches, and my friends who always believe in me. Iwould like to thank and receive this recognition on behalf of other undiscoveredyoung people around the world who did something to change their life. You allare my greatest inspiration.I enjoy my pathway to making a difference and this is the way I want to beremembered. You may also have your own pathway, because there is no rigidtemplate in change. Let’s start by dreaming, exploring our talents, doingsomething small, then trying to reach further, reach more people, and eventuallyit will be not only your movement, but also a social movement, a globalmovement. I do believe that any exploration of talent and passion can contributeto social changes. A small action that is conducted by a single individual willconsistently make other people follow it, and then it has real impact. Never limityourself. Never underestimate yourself because we are young. We can changethe world.If a 10 year-old boy with nothing attached to him could ignite something, whycan’t you. He had a dream, and you have a dream. Think Big, Make it Happen! Iwill wait for another story from YOU! Thank you. 5