Royal University of Phnom Penh
March 19, 2016
His Excellency Dr. Sabo Ojano, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Environment; Mr. Chhith Sam Ath, Country Director for World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Cambodia; members of the U.S. Ambassador’s Youth Council; distinguished guests; educators, students, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you and good evening. I am honored to be here with you all for what is sure to be an unforgettable experience. Earth Hour 2016 is finally here, so let’s put our hands together in celebration of this special event!
I am very impressed with the energy and enthusiasm coming from each of you here tonight. During my time in Cambodia, I have met a number of people – particularly youth – who are passionate about protecting, preserving, and educating others about the environment. I would like to commend the Ministry of Environment for its work to improve conservation efforts, facilitate sustainable development, and protect natural resources in Cambodia.
I also want to thank our good friends at World Wildlife Fund Cambodia, one of the country’s premier environmental NGOs. Country Director Chhith Sam Ath has significantly contributed to increased understanding and greater cooperation to address threats to the environment. His example is an inspiration for me and others here in Cambodia and around the world. We greatly appreciate your efforts to develop a generation of Cambodians who are more aware of environmental issues and more empowered to take action.
This brings me to the last group of people that I want to acknowledge – the young leaders who serve on U.S. Ambassador William Heidt’s Youth Council. Could all AYC members raise your hands to be recognized? The U.S. Embassy is proud to once again support Earth Hour this year through the AYC, which has played a lead role in organizing this event for the second year in a row. With tremendous energy and creativity, the AYC not only serve as advisors to Ambassador Heidt on issues that are important for Cambodian youth; they also organize and implement a number of projects that impact the lives of thousands of Cambodians across the country. Thank you for taking the time and effort to help bring today’s event to life. The tireless work and the passion that you have shown in planning Earth Hour 2016 serve as inspiration to us all.
Each AYC member is also a member of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), which includes almost 5,000 Cambodian youth! As many of you know, YSEALI was launched in 2013 by President Barack Obama as his signature initiative for encouraging youth empowerment, networking and leadership development throughout ASEAN. It has opened a door for young people to take action on key issues like environmental protection, economic development, education and civic engagement. I have met some amazing young people through YSEALI, and I ask you to encourage others to join this initiative, which now includes over 60,000 youth across Southeast Asia.
During the COP21 Conference in Paris last year, President Obama talked about meeting youth from Cambodia and across the region at the 2015 YSEALI Summit in Malaysia. When the President opened his Q&A session with these young leaders, the first question wasn’t about terrorism, the economy, or human rights. It was about climate change, and what young people could do to help. Among the nearly 200 nations that participated in the COP21 Conference, it was clear that when it comes to issues like climate change, environmental protection, and sustainability, youth should be encouraged to speak up and get involved. As we celebrate Earth Hour 2016, this is our chance to the entire world that Cambodian youth are doing just that.
I am pleased to know that all of you here today are committed – now and in the future – to making your communities better by taking positive action to address threats to our shared environment. As a mother, I want to make sure that my son will grow up in a world that is safe and healthy. This is just one of the reasons why I think it is important to “shine a light” on climate change, even after Earth Hour has passed. I am sure that your participation in this event will serve as one of many significant actions that will have a profound impact not just in Cambodia, but across the region and the world.
I would like to conclude with a quote from Dr. Seuss, an American author of popular children’s books like The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. One of my son’s favorite Dr. Seuss books is The Lorax, where the title character says, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Thanks to the Minister of Environment, the World Wildlife Fund, the Ambassador’s Youth Council and all of you here today for caring a lot about climate change, and for answering the call to do something about it. Thank you.