On June 1st, as part of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, President Obama hosted a meeting with 75 emerging leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the White House. The 75 leaders who attended the session were made up of a group of 55 YSEALI Professional Fellows and 20 YSEALI Academic Fellows representing all 10 ASEAN countries. The group at the White House was the first to visit the United States as part of the YSEALI fellowship program, announced by Obama in Burma in November 2014. The Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative encourages civic and government leaders from Southeast Asia to enhance their leadership skills and work with their American counterparts to help promote economic empowerment, good governance, and environmental and natural resources management in their home countries.
One of the main takeaways for the members of YSEALI was revealed when President Obama told the young leaders that one of the most important things that he stood for was making sure that he was treating everyone fairly — no matter their sex, race, religion, or sexual orientation. The President emphasized that as long as you had a clear view of what you stood for, you could always look yourself in the mirror and know who you were and why you were doing what you were doing.
“You have to stand for something. That’s my most important advice,” Obama said.
“Each of you has developed a project, an action plan, and you’ll take what you learned here and put it into practice, and we are going to be with you during this process as you build your ventures, expand your networks and [mentor] young people that are coming behind you.”