Remarks at Young South East Asian Leadership Initiative (YSEALI) Event

Remarks
John Kerry
Secretary of State
JW Marriott
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
August 5, 2015


SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, Cheryl, very, very much. Well, let me tell you, I am really excited to be here with you. This is probably the best part of my day. (Laughter.) No, I’m serious. I love --

AUDIENCE: Aw.

SECRETARY KERRY: -- aw. I’m – first I get sympathy for my leg, now you’re – (laughter). Can I stay here all day? I mean – (laughter and applause). I – you don’t believe me, but I really am excited to be here because – for a lot of reasons; for a lot of reasons. First of all, I represented Massachusetts in the United States Senate for 28 years plus. And Massachusetts, as you know, is the home of MIT and a load of colleges and universities. We have about 136 or -40 colleges and universities, many of which are very technical, very focused on innovation and research and development and the creation of new products. And as I think many of you know, the internet itself came out of early efforts of part of Massachusetts combined with other people and our greatest research organizations. And we’ve had huge, historic breakthroughs coming out of our state. We are an innovation state together with California, a few other – northern Virginia now is a huge technology center.

And we’ve found that the combination of education and technology – and, of course, people like you who want to apply your minds to ways to try to harness technology and research and ideas and put it into practice – is what really changes the world, in every respect. Whether you’re talking about health care and the development of new pharmaceuticals or new medical devices that work for people more efficiently, or whether you’re talking about everyday products – I mean, the clothes we wear, the food we eat, what kind of – where does it come from, what’s it made of, how do you make it – I mean, all these kinds of things are of phenomenal importance, and ultimately they have the ability to be made into a product. If it’s made into a product with a broad base, you can make a lot of money and you change a lot of lives in the process.

We – in the corporate world, we talk about it in the context, the company doing well, but also doing good. Because you do well in terms of money and making money, and it’s a profitable company, but good things come out of it that have an impact on lives of people everywhere. I have a friend in Massachusetts – in New Hampshire who is an inventor. I mean, he’s invented the most amazing things. The name is Dean Kamen. He lives in New Hampshire, works out in New Hampshire in Manchester, and he – and many of you have seen – I mean, you’ve seen the – I’ve forgotten even the name for it. But --

PARTICIPANT: Segway.

SECRETARY KERRY: Yeah, the Segway. There you are. You’re way ahead of me. The Segway is part of his (inaudible). But you know what he also designed is that wheelchair that a quadriplegic, paraplegic could be in this wheelchair and the wheelchair climbs up, you could actually reach into your shelves – it balances on two wheels. Absolutely extraordinary – computerized balancing wheelchair that won’t fall over either way. And I know people who use that chair, and it has changed their lives.

Or, when I first, a senator, we had a committee that was devoted at that point in time to technology and to changing things, and we gave a grant to a number of entities to try to go out and work on what we called assisted devices, which would help people who needed assistance in their day-to-day life. So they developed what is today’s technology, where people speak through a computer. They talk into the computer, the computer talks for you and so forth. So there’s so many possibilities. There are just endless possibilities.

There are a lot more practical kinds of things, too – I mean – “practical,” that’s the wrong word. There are a lot more straightforward, old-fashioned business models where you can start something and you have a product and you go out and you sell it. And – but here’s why this meeting is so exciting and why this is so important. YSEALI – Young Southeast Asian Leaders – represents, in President Obama’s vision, the total future – that the more you who are the future can get the chance to have an introduction to education at the highest level and most challenging possibilities and begin to marry that education with knowledge about how to take an idea and take it from idea to the shelf and to a product, the more the world is going to change rapidly as a result.

And I think this region – I know Malaysia, but I think this region about 70 – 65 percent is under the age of 35, and well over 50 percent in many countries under the age of 30. You get down – 40 and 50 percent is under the age of 21. So the majority of the countries you’re growing up in are you, young people. And so you can change the world. I’m absolutely telling you that it is – it’s not a euphemism (inaudible); it’s not just a saying. It’s a reality.

And YSEALI has been put together – President Obama’s vision of this is all over the world, that we do everything we can to make sure that every young person possible is able to reach for that vision and be able to have this opportunity. And if that happens enough, then people aren’t going to join ISIL or Daesh or Boko Haram or al-Shabaab and think that life is defined by going out and shooting somebody or blowing something up, but will understand that life is really defined by making life better for other people and giving back to a community and helping to build a community in the first place.

So you are the future leaders, all of you. And you don’t have to be elected and you don’t have to be a prime minister; just you can be a leader in a company; you can be a leader in your community – whatever it is you choose to do, take your idea and try to live it. Make something out of it. And don’t for an instant be deterred by the cynics and the naysayers and the people that don’t have your energy and your enthusiasm. You can make all the difference in the world, and we, believe it or not, are counting on you to do exactly that.

Okay? Is that a deal?

AUDIENCE: Yeah. (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: All right? I would like – I’d love to answer any questions. I know there are a couple of you who’ve already – who are already doing amazing things. Some of you here are doing something with waste – am I right? I think there are a couple folks --

MS YEOH: Yeah. Secretary Kerry, I think the members of the media, our friends, are going to be leaving. So let’s give them a round of applause --

SECRETARY KERRY: Who?

MS YEOH: The media.

SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, the media are going to another place.

MS YEOH: Yeah, yeah. Thank you so much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you guys. Appreciate it. (Applause.) I want you to know that represents the first time in years the media (ends in progress).