Participants at LEAD seventh conference with Nobel laureate, Mohamed El Baradei
The Leadership for Education and Development Program (LEAD) has held its seventh annual conference under the title, “Masr Tela’et Omy” (Egypt Turned Out to be My Mom). The conference agenda was intended to empower Egyptian youth by raising awareness of political issues and presenting for discussion a number of initiatives to address crucial issues related to Egypt’s development.
The opening of the conference was attended by Margaret Scobey, the U.S. ambassador to Egypt. Also in attendance were James Bever, director of the U.S. Agency for International Development; Mohamed El Baradei, Nobel laureate, former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency and AUC trustee; AUC President Lisa Anderson; and Sohair Saad, LEAD director. Conference attendees also included members of local organizations and NGOs, as well as students from Egyptian universities.
In her conference address, President Anderson said that the objective of the conference was “to encourage political participation with a critical thinking approach amongst Egypt’s youth.” She added that the conference sessions are intended to expose Egyptian youth to diverse perspectives on the future of Egypt and will allow them to engage in constructive discussions with intellectuals and professionals that are not easily accessible. She explained this is done to empower students to initiate positive, long-term networks across Egypt.
Ambassador Scobey’s remarks focused on the importance of the LEAD program and its development year after year. “I have no doubt that you all will learn much from listening and sharing and working with each other through what looks to me like an extremely exciting and challenging program with regard to raising political awareness and encouraging political participation,” she said, “I think the purpose of this conference is very well timed. It is many months out still from your first free parliamentary elections, but democracy is not just about an election. It is building institutions, and it is convincing people to work together even when it is hard, and respecting each others’ rights even though you don’t always agree on what the outcome should be.”
One of the highlights of the conference this year was a series of forums moderated by Egyptian political and public figures, including El Baradei who addressed the future of Egypt and the role of the youth. “You are Egypt; you are the future, that’s why every one of you, when you go back to your governorate, should realize that your role in politics reflects on your lives, future and families. Thus politics is not luxury; it’s a way of living, and you should know that if you don’t take part in it inside your community, you wouldn’t be able to determine your life,” he said.
Established in 2004, LEAD is a partnership initiative supported by USAID and the Egyptian Ministry of International Cooperation. Each year, 57 public school students -- one male and one female -- from each of Egypt's governorates are awarded full scholarships to attend AUC.