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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative 2012 Closing Ceremony; Remarks By Amb. Walter Carrington

It was an honor, meeting the former Ambassador to Nigeria - Ambassador Walter Carrington whom the Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative was aptly named after and the Consul General to the United States Embassy in Lagos, - Mr Jeffery  J Hawkins at the closing ceremony of the CYFI 2012 fellowship year.

2013 Fellows with Ambassador Walter Carrington and his wife, Dr Arese Carrington, Consul General to the US embassy, Lagos and Members of the CYFI board. Photo credit:

2012 Fellows with Ambassador Walter Carrington and his wife Dr Arese Carrington. Photo credit:

Below is the remark delivered by Ambassador Walter Carrington at the ceremony which took place on the 13th of February 2013 at the residence of the consular general in Ikoyi, Lagos.
Happy reading!


Delivered at the





The Consul General’s Residence

Ikoyi Crescent, Ikoyi

13 February 2013

How great it is to be back in Nigeria and at this Residence which was my home for nearly four years.  How many treasured memories my wife, Arese, and I have of this place.  Here we would annually host a celebration of our National Day of Independence, the Fourth of July. Here we would meet and dine with so many of the heroes of your own struggle for independence from military rule.  Indeed, the first time I set foot on these grounds was in 1959, the year before Nigeria’s Independence. I was leading a group of American students on a program called the Experiment in International Living.  We spent a summer living with Nigerian families in Lagos, Ibadan, Enugu, Port Harcourt, Kano and Kaduna. One of my favorite keepsakes from that time is a photo of the group of us standing at the foot of the very staircase where these young CYFI Fellows are posed in the photo which graces the program’s website.

I am deeply honored and humbled that the U.S. Consulate General here in Lagos has attached my name to this most worthy initiative. It is good that you have brought together a cohort large enough to form the critical mass of a support group that can encourage each other in the years ahead.  It is altogether fitting that you have chosen the theme for this cluster of outstanding young people as Youth Engagement.  I have been impressed and encouraged reading about the projects they have developed and implemented in the fields of civil liberties, education, public health, university outreach and vocational training.

I am happy to have the opportunity to be here to meet these awardees who remind me so much of my own younger days.  Then, Africa was facing a dawn of new nationhood in which governments “of the people,” to use the first part of Abraham Lincoln’s famous trilogy would be established.  It has taken fifty years for democracy, “government by the people” to establish a firm foothold in more than half of the nations on this continent.  Still unfulfilled in too many places is the dream of “government for the people.”  That dream’s realization will depend upon you and your generation just as the achievement of independence depended on the generation of your grandparents. So I charge you each:  Tunde, Theophilus, Sholape, Temitope, Ebeneezer, Obinna, Raquel, Joseph, Seyi, Emmanuel, Chuks, Sunday, Queen-Esther, Rhoda, and Oluwatosin  do not let fifty or even ten more years pass in which the impoverished poor make up the majority of your countrymen.  The eradication of extreme poverty is the great moral challenge of our time.  This challenge will not be met so long as male elites continue to use government to meet their own needs and not those of their poor brothers and sisters.  Nor as long as women are denied their rightful share of power and opportunities.  Nor as long as corruption  permeates so much of society.

Back home in my country there is much anxiety and unrest because our unemployment figures are between 7 and 8 percent.  Yet here in Nigeria the figure hovers close to 25%.   Among your fellow youth who make up over 40% of the population there are nearly 70 million unemployed.  And this in a country richer in natural resources than any other on the continent.

          To fulfill the hopes and live up to the expectations embodied in you by the awarding of these fellowships will not be easy.  The road ahead of you will be filled with temptations.  There will be rationalizations presented to you of how high ideals are for the na├»ve young.  And that as you grow older you must be more practical.  That you must go along with the system in order to get along with it or to get the riches out of it that others have ill begotten.  I beg of you do not yield to that temptation.  I have seen too many who have done so in the eight decades I have been on this earth. I have spoken to African students studying in the United States fired up to go home to make a difference.  And when I have gotten to see them years later they have been co-opted into the very systems they had vowed to change. They went along to get along.  Remain faithful to the ideals your parents and others have instilled in you.  It won’t be easy but it will be fulfilling.   You may not end your days wealthy in gold but rather affluent in spirit with that satisfaction that when you had an opportunity to make a difference you took it.  

I suppose I could have given you a more optimistic picture of the challenges which lie before you.  I could have spoken as if the glass were half full rather than half empty.  But I did not want to lull you into a mood of complacency. I have always believed that those who would change the world around them must see the glass as half empty and be driven by the determination to fill it.  And so I challenge you to take that half empty vessel and work with those who will not be satisfied until, as the Psalm says, the cup runneth over. Then surely goodness and mercy shall follow you and our beloved Nigeria all the days of your lives.

US Consul General, Lagos and Vweta

Some of the creations of the YEC Academy on display

Please find more details about this fellowship here: Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative

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