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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Global Youth Service Day Tree Planting

Tara Sonenshine
Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs 
Bole Preparatory School
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
April 28, 2013


Thank you.

Thank you Principal Daniel and Director Haileselassie. I am delighted to visit this beautiful country. It is my first trip – and I have quickly learned what Ethiopian hospitality is all about. And right now, I am going to ask two people to come to the microphone and say their names out loud.  The director who organized today’s tree planting and the coordinator of the National Green Service Team project.  [They say their names.]

Please join me now in showing our appreciation.

I also want to greet our Charge at the U.S. Embassy, Molly Phee, the Director of the Peace Corps in Ethiopia, Greg Engle, and all of the young people here today -- the members of Tena Kebene, our Embassy youth council, the National Green Service Team, U.S. Peace Corps volunteers, African Union youth, Embassy volunteers, and everyone from our Microscholarship Access program at St. Mary’s University.

Please give yourselves a hand too.

We are here to mark two special days – Global Youth Service Day and Earth Day. If you look at the trees that are about to be planted, and all the shovels, and all of the young people, I think you can quickly understand how we are connecting these two events together.

I’d like to mention some other connections, too.

One connection is the connection between these trees and Ethiopia’s economic future as an agricultural nation. Agriculture is central to Ethiopia’s economy. It needs fertile land, smart use of technology and farmers – men and women – who understand the principle of sustainable agriculture.

Some of you spent two weeks living with local families and helping farmers to improve their erosion control methods and to introduce other technologies. Some of you will do that this year. That goes a long way towards supporting that sustainability.

Another connection is between these trees and Ethiopia’s environmental future. Both of those futures are mutually reinforcing. They strengthen each other. Here in Ethiopia, the effects of global climate change can mean life or death for farmers, as they work to support their families. An Ethiopia with more forests will help sustain this country and our planet.

There’s another connection – and this one is symbolic. It’s the connection between these young trees and all of you.

As volunteers and emerging leaders, you have demonstrated your commitment to taking charge of the future. When you plant a tree today or spend part of your summer helping farmers, you are making differences in people’s lives. And that will help other people come forward to help. That’s the power of volunteerism.

So thank you for listening to me. I look forward to hearing from you – your names, your stories, and your hopes – as we plant these trees.

Before I do that, I’d like to ask the volunteers of the National Green Society to come forward when their names are called and receive their certificates.

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