The desire for reconciliation alone achieves nothing. Dreams must be linked to action, and theoretical posturing must be supported by practical thinking if any lasting change is to be achieved. As its name implies, the Future Leaders Conference intends to not only achieve reconciliation, but to promote leadership qualities in the students. Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” This is an oft repeated phrase at SLU functions that support youth empowerment. If you will not work for the change you believe in, how can you expect anyone else to put forth any effort?
Change does not occur on its own, no matter how badly we wish it would. The students who attend the Future Leaders Conference must not only desire reconciliation, but also take responsibility for upholding its principles. While reconciliation in Sri Lanka is the ultimate goal of Sri Lanka Unites, teaching the characteristics of leadership is just as important. The youth of the nation must be equipped with the personal characteristics necessary to found and cultivate school projects that increase understanding between peoples and provide tangible benefits to the community. In a nation where options to become involved with existing reconciliation and community development projects are limited, SLU is laying the groundwork by preparing individuals to actualize their own ideas.
Forming future leaders has several benefits. First, it encourages the reconciliation movement to expand at an exponential rate. Student leaders, by example, inspire their younger peers who did not have the opportunity to attend the Future Leaders Conference. A substantial leadership program has the greatest chance to make grassroots change sustainable. Second, it allows the next generation to direct the future they wish to see. These students understand the attitudes and needs of their districts better than the Sri Lanka Unites core team and are the people best suited to lead reconciliation initiatives in their schools. These students will be hear from many inspirational figures at the coming conference, and their experiences there will inform their decision of how to live as leaders.
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