* as prepared for delivery
Mr. Kola, Mr. Kacorri, Mrs. Reci, dear students,
Good morning. This is my first visit to Rrëshen and I love it here. This is also our first of many meetings with young people in towns across Albania. We have a message for you, but we also hope to learn something from you today.
Here’s our simple message:
- Big changes are coming for Albania.
- You have an important role to play in Albania’s future.
- You must demand change from your leaders.
I grew up in an amazing place in California. We had incredible natural beauty, kind people and delicious food. It reminds me a bit of Rrëshen. At the age of 18, I left California to study, to find a job and to raise a family.
I realize now that I will work and save my money my whole life, just so one day when I retire, I can go back to my home in California.
You are young. Your future is in Albania, and Albania’s future is in you.
I firmly believe Albania will join the European Union in the next decade. All of you, your children and grandchildren will live as full citizens of Europe with all the rights and privileges of EU membership.
This change and many others are coming. Don’t miss your opportunity to be part of them. Your parents can tell you all the changes they have already seen:
- NATO membership
- EU visa liberalization
- Decriminalization of your parliament
- Judicial reform
But you will probably tell me, boring! What we want is a good education. We want jobs. We want what we see every day on TV, from the UK, from Germany and from the United States.
Do you know how you’re going to get all that? You are going to demand it. The best thing about your generation is that you are not tied down by the low expectations of this country’s communist past.
You demand jobs like they have in Germany. You expect laws against corruption like they have in the UK. And you insist on personal freedoms like they have in the U.S.
You live in a democracy. If you demand it, your government must respond. Or you will throw them out. For example, at the beginning of the school year, many people, including the opposition, demanded free books for students.
This is a small country. It is not a wealthy country. But it is reasonable for citizens to ask that the government provide money to buy books for its students. And when the government tells you it cannot afford it, you need to ask how they are paying for their fancy government buildings, their luxury cars and their foreign trips.
As a democracy, the responsibility and the power lies with you. We look forward to the day when you are the leaders of Albania. We know your generation will be better than their generation in leading Albania towards its European future.