Remarks
Ronan Farrow
Special Advisor, Office of Global Youth Issues
Ankara, Turkey
December 4, 2011



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I keep saying that I’m speaking on behalf of the U.S. Government at the summit, and I have never seen so many disappointed looks. I am not Vice President Joseph Biden. Sorry about that. But I am very excited to be here because I look out across this room and I see such energy and I see such potential to find a solution for the problems that we all confront as young people, and for some of our key global local challenges.

We know that young people are capable of transforming their worlds. We’ve seen in recent years young people overthrow dictatorships. We’ve seen them transform their political realities. We have seen them transform our technologies and our abilities to communicate and network. We also have seen that young people who have jobs, who are free to pursue their potential, are more likely to build peaceful, prosperous institutions.

But all that said, we are at a moment of crisis both as young people and as a planet. Half a billion young people ages 15 to 19 are out of work or are working below the poverty line. A majority of the world’s unemployed are youth. The global economy, as we all know, is in a moment of challenge, not just as we’ve seen in recent months in Europe but also in my home, in the United States. And right here in Turkey, the stakes are especially clear. More than half of Turkey’s population is under the age of 30; and while overall less than 10 percent of Turks are unemployed, that rate is nearly doubled for young Turks under the age of 24.

I have spoken with educated, energetic, inspiring young Turkish men and women who are frustrated. They have the tools, they have the credentials, they have the willpower, but the traditional jobs just aren’t there.

That’s why what you’re all doing, what you represent, is so important. In this time of challenge, people have to build their own solutions. And young people, as they always have been historically, are the ones with the energy, the fearlessness, and the creativity to build those solutions.

That’s what entrepreneurship is. It’s a way of life. It’s a commitment to striking out and taking risks to build solutions. This is a room of exactly those innovators and envelope pushers that the world needs. And I’ve spent the afternoon seeing all of your projects firsthand and talking to you about your plans and aspirations for them.

So I can say firsthand that you do have the power and you’re living out the power to build your own solutions. The point I’d like to make is that, in doing so, you are also the solution for all of us, because a global economic recovery will depend on young entrepreneurs, business owners, and workers.

Earlier today, Vice President Biden described America as hardwired for innovation. Fostering entrepreneurs is a deeply held ideal for the American people, and that ideal has borne Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, Starbucks, and other businesses that have changed the face of the world. Much of that success started in garages, in basements, when a young person stumbles on a brilliant idea and takes the risks needed to make it a reality. And it does take risk. I don’t have to tell that to this crowd. Success is never a guarantee, and much of it is borne out of adversity.

Entrepreneurs teach us that failure is acceptable on the road to success. It’s how we learn. It’s how we grow. For our part, the United States is working to stand by you as you take those risks. From Latin America to Africa and the Middle East, to Europe and Asia, the United States is running programs that support and create space for and mentor entrepreneurs. Right here in Turkey, I am very proud to be able to say that the United States supports a million dollars of programs that inspire and foster young Turks to pursue entrepreneurship. And I look forward to working with Minister Kilic and my other colleagues in the Turkish Government to expand that effort and deepen our partnership to fuel entrepreneurship in years to come.

We are particularly deepening and expanding our commitment to young people. Over the last year, Secretary Clinton has launched a task force looking at how we can change the game on how we talk to, listen to, and support young people. That task force produced an unprecedented pledge from the United States, a pledge to direct the full force of our diplomacy and development at empowering young people as civic participants and ensuring they have a voice in their communities, and empowering them as economic participants and creating access to markets for them.

That means a renewed commitment to programs that foster entrepreneurs and create jobs and educate and link young people to opportunities. And it means using our diplomacy to partner with likeminded governments that support the aspirations of young people. That’s why it’s so significant to hold this summit here in Turkey with a fellow government that is committed to these ideals.

It also means asking tough questions of governments that don’t always support those aspirations. Questions like: Are you ensuring young entrepreneurs can cut through red tape and gain access to capital? Does your government give preferences to large existing businesses, or do you really allow young people to start their own new initiatives? Does your country have intellectual property laws that protect young people, in the way we heard about earlier?

It’s been my privilege to spearhead that effort as Secretary Clinton’s advisor on youth issues and the director, as Stefi mentioned, of our State Department’s new Office of Global Youth Issues. In that role, part of my job is listening to you closely and hearing how we can be doing more, how we can be doing better. So I hope that this can be the beginning of a conversation that we keep going as I leave Turkey and that we can find ways to partner and support you as we move forward and as I watch all of you live out your success stories.

I want to close by saying that we need you. I mentioned to some of you that I’m championing this policy focused on youth entrepreneurship, but I couldn’t write a business plan to save my life. I wouldn’t know my way around any of those projects that I saw today that are pushing the envelope in such interesting ways. So I am inspired by you personally; but more than that, I know that your efforts and those of countless young people like you will be a linchpin for all of our prosperity and security.

So I would say continue thinking big and dreaming big and know that we’re listening. (Applause.) And in the interest of keeping that conversation going, I would invite all of you to keep me updated on the projects that I saw today. If you want to email, it’s globalyouth@state.gov, and I’ll hope to hear from all of you. (Applause.)