Rotary marks Nelson Mandela Day with youth summit

Carlton Rotary
Carlton Rotary

By Ian Ada
President, Rotary Club of Carlton
[email protected] // 0447 173 084

Nelson Mandela International Day, established by the United Nations, was celebrated on July 18. Mandela Day is a global call to action that celebrates the idea that each individual has the power to transform the world, and the ability to make an impact.

Since 2020 the Centre for Optimism in Melbourne has organised a Nelson Mandela Youth Leadership Summit on this day to bring together a diverse group of youth to create a group of connected future leaders.

This year 88 students from a number of Melbourne and Shepparton schools came together in the Legislative Assembly Chamber of the Victorian Parliament to listen to international leaders and to experience speaking in the Chamber

The Carlton, Fitzroy, Collingwood and Richmond Rotary Clubs were responsible for liaising with secondary schools in their area to have about 20 students selected to attend the summit. Seven students from Princes Hill Secondary College participated accompanied by assistant principal Anthony Avotins. Keynote speakers included Nelson Mandela Day Australia president Dr Steve Rametse, Ambassador for Ukraine Vasyl Myroshnychenko and Consul General for the USA Kathleen Lively. Students had the chance to sit in the Speaker’s Chair and chair individual speakers’ sessions.

Dr Rametse had been imprisoned in apartheid South Africa before escaping to Botswana and eventually being accepted as a refugee in Australia. He provided many examples from Mandela’s speeches about the role of leadership, optimism and resilience. He noted that everyone could make a difference if they were dedicated to, and passionate about, what they did, and when people were determined they could achieve anything. One of Mandela’s well-known quotes was “resentment was like drinking a poison and expecting it to kill your enemies”.

Ambassador Myroshnychenko gave a potted history of his own leadership journey. He was an exchange student for a year in the USA at age 15. He studied at a range of universities in Kyiv, the US and the UK, and joined the European Youth Parliament at 19. He has helped 800 young people get scholarships at the best European and North American universities. The Ambassador co-founded the youth public organisation European Youth Parliament – Ukraine, of which he was the president for the first three years. He is a member of the Rotary Club of Kyiv.

He also spoke about resilience and the role of young people in changing the world. He said resilience came from optimism in a better future. Youth can make a difference using social media and their phone was their most powerful tool.

Consul-General Lively focussed her talk on the role of women in leadership and foreign policy, particularly in the U.S. She noted the first female Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and new Ambassador to Australia Caroline Kennedy were trailblazers.  She also noted resilience came from youth believing in themselves and staying vigilant and informed about issues.

Other speakers included Mt Everest summiteer Daniel Bull, Rotary District Governor Mandi Wendt, and South East Water CEO Lara Olsen.

The key message from these speakers was that, although they all had different stories and backgrounds, they all agreed that having optimism and being resilient and persistent helps make a great leader.

The youth were then invited to come to the microphones and share their views on optimism and leadership. About 20 took advantage and expressed optimism for the future, although from different viewpoints.  The conclusion was that the summit provided such a positive environment to empower the youth present to believe that change was possible. This was emphasised in the conclusions drawn by a couple of the Princes Hill students …

“A great opportunity to meet like-minded people to discuss some generational type plans and share hope and optimism” – Thomas Zarro, Year 10.

“So many different speakers leading the way on leadership, hope and optimism. Thanks so much. Awesome” – Celeste Rose, Year 8.

The Rotary Club of Carlton will commence an evening meeting in August, replacing one of our lunchtime meetings.

On the third Tuesday in each month, we will meet at Naughtons Hotel, Royal Pde, Parkville beginning at 6.30pm. If you would like to join us on 16 August, or any other month, to find out a little more about Rotary, please give me a ring beforehand, and we would make you most welcome. •

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