Remarks by Ambassador Popp at the reception of the Mandela Washington Scholarship | May 23, 2024

Remarks by Ambassador Popp at the Mandela Washington Scholarship Pre-Orientation Reception | May 23, 2024

As prepared for delivery.

Good evening and welcome! Thank you for joining us on this special occasion as we bid farewell to the newest Ugandan delegation of Mandela Washington Fellows.
This is a special year, as it is the 10th anniversary of the Community! For fellows, this afternoon and a few days of orientation mark the beginning of a transformative journey, fostering leadership, collaboration and positive change.

I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to learn, build meaningful relationships, and open your minds to new perspectives. You are the leaders, today and in the years to come, who will continue to shape a brighter Uganda, Africa and a global community. And you will all join the ranks of those who came before you, some of whom are also with us tonight.

Exchange programs are one of the many ways we invest in and partner with the people of Uganda. The nearly $1 billion or 3.7 trillion Ugandan shillings we invest here helps build capacity across many sectors and expertise across many disciplines to help Uganda one day graduate from development assistance to a future nourished by through more than six decades of support.

Over the past decade, one of our most popular programs in Africa has been the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), which includes the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Regional Leadership Centers, and the online YALI Network.

YALI has produced many outstanding leaders, and I must say that the Mandela Washington Scholarship alumni represent some of the most dynamic civic, business and community leaders I have met in Uganda.

Everywhere I go, I meet MWF and YALI alumni who are leading positive developments and innovation in this country. I am delighted to see this network expand and to meet the new generation of fellows tonight.

We have some alumni representatives here tonight. If I had to name all the Mandela Washington Fellows who contribute significantly to their communities, we would be here all night!

However, I want to give a special shout out to Jamila Mayanja from Smart Girls Uganda. Jamila last year received the global Mandela Washington Fellowship Leadership Award, and her work training young women in the trades while partnering with local businesses and developing her scholarship at Dartmouth College is the gold standard of MWF leadership .

The Mandela Washington Scholarship lives up to President Obama’s vision for this program when it was launched in 2014.

He told that first group: “In my meetings with young people from across Africa, you have shown me that you have the talent, drive and determination to become the next generation of African leaders.”

Their continued commitment to their communities and leadership is what we want to see in countries around the world, particularly in Uganda where young people make up the majority of the population. Their voices and leadership are critical to building and sustaining a strong and responsive democratic society.

I congratulate the newest fellows on their selection for the program. To date, more than 230 Ugandans have participated in the Mandela Washington Scholarship and the enthusiasm for the program reminds us that there are many capable leaders among us and all they need is an opportunity.

The selection process is one of the most rigorous and comprehensive exercises you will ever participate in. You should be proud to have come out on top of the over 2,700 applications read in Uganda this year!

I want you to know how much we at the US Mission (and I have several of my colleagues from various offices and agencies here tonight) value you, the work you do, and the positive change you so passionately create. You are our partners as we work together to promote our shared goal of a healthy, prosperous, democratic and secure Uganda.

The Mandela Washington Scholarship Program is not just a trip to the United States, it is a catalyst for impactful leadership. Seize every moment, forge meaningful connections, and let this experience fuel your commitment to making a lasting difference.

Now, I would like to propose a toast as we say goodbye to the newest fellows and wish them a positive and productive time in the program. (raise glasses)

Enjoy this time together as we celebrate this program and the beginning of what I know will be a life-changing journey.

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