May 20, 2016
Her Excellency Tekreth Kamrang, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Commerce ; Ms. Lay Sokunthea, of IIG Education Cambodia; Dr. Nhong Din Than of Metfone, distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen.
In the year and a half I’ve been in Cambodia, I’ve been truly inspired by the young people – their drive, their enthusiasm, and their talents. That’s why it’s so great to join you all here today. When we tell the stories of history’s great inventors, there is often a great deal of focus on that moment of realization. It is when Newton is struck on the head by an apple, or in a single moment Einstein simply realizes the theory of relativity, or two guys in a garage invent the latest app or social media platform. This is the fiction. The truth is that great inventions – and great inventors – are only created from years of study, commitment, and even failure. What makes these great people different is an amazing curiosity for the world and an unrelenting persistence.
Science, technology, engineering and math are at the core of a thriving, innovative society. At the same time, these educational disciplines teach young adults, such as those who are in attendance this afternoon, the critical thinking skills that will guide them through their lives and on to successful careers. For this reason, I believe it is of the utmost importance to encourage these bright young Cambodian students to become the scientists, engineers, and inventors of tomorrow to help contribute to the success of this country. Cambodia can have its own Newton or Einstein or Bill Gates.
To those who are receiving awards today, you should feel a sense of accomplishment and pride, but understand that this is still just the beginning. Importantly, competitions such as these require that you engage not just with those around you here in Cambodia, but with others much like you from all over the world. These experiences will challenge you by constantly exposing you to new and contrary ideas that will help you to think in a different way when you find yourself stuck.
I sincerely hope that many of you here might envision a future for yourself studying in the United States. Our educational system thrives by recruiting not only the brightest young American minds, but great minds from all over the world. Our universities strive for the sort of eclectic and multi-cultural classrooms that foster the creative environments that invent new technologies, discover new drugs, and visualize new solar systems, providing an environment for entrepreneurship and creativity. I hope many of you also join President Obama’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) to develop networks and get opportunities to share ideas with your fellow youth in the region.
Companies such as Microsoft have changed the way we live; not just in the United States, but all over the world. Their software is the “blank white page” of the digital era. Software and equipment don’t result in innovation. It’s the ideas behind the tools that drive the way ahead.
It is all of you who will help fill the blank white page.
So think about this as not just a competition, but an opportunity to use your talents and skills to make Cambodia great, to make your parents and teachers and friends proud of you. For those winners competing in the global competition in Orlando in August, we will be cheering you from afar and wish you the best of luck. Congratulations and thank you again for inviting me to be here with you today.