United States Expands Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative

November 14, 2014

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President Barack Obama announces a significant expansion of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) at a town hall held in Rangoon, Burma with 400 youth from the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). President Barack Obama announces a significant expansion of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) at a town hall held in Rangoon, Burma with 400 youth from the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Photo Credit, AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
President Obama announced the expansion of YSEALI, the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative he first launched in 2013, at a town hall in Rangoon, Burma.

“I launched the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative to deepen America’s engagement with the next generation of leaders in government and civil society, in education and in entrepreneurship,” he shared with the attending youth, who represented member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

In the coming year, the initiative will bring 500 exceptional young leaders from ASEAN countries to the United States as YSEALI Fellows. As the President’s signature exchange program to nurture the ASEAN community, the fellowships are designed to build leadership skills, foster ingenuity, and accelerate promotion of the next generation of Southeast Asian leaders. Through specialized exchange activities, these young leaders will meet and network with American leaders to become more equipped to contribute to their home countries and communities.

“The future of this region is not going to be determined by dictators or by armies,” the President continued in his remarks in Burma. “It’s going to be determined by entrepreneurs and inventors and dreamers and people who are doing things in the community. And you’re going to be the leaders who make that happen.”

Upon completion of the program, the Fellows will be supported in implementing their leadership vision and plans through grant competitions, a network of contacts working on similar issues, online resources, and ongoing engagement with the U.S. Embassy in their countries. The Fellowships will expand horizons for those who embrace the experience and culminate in strengthened ties between the United States and Southeast Asia. As the President stated, “People-to-people exchange is often as important or more important as government-to-government exchange.”