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MISS GARCIA: Well, it’s my pleasure to be here today with all of you and the Secretary. I wanted to welcome you to the YSEALI town hall on environmental responsibility. Everyone knows me, and I know them, but I Amparo Garcia. I am a Cultural Affairs officer. And without further ado, I’d like to introduce Secretary of State Antony Blinken. (Applause.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. thank you (In Khmer.)  (Laughter.)  Amazing. Wonderful to be with you all. And I have to tell you that I was especially looking forward to seeing all of you participants in the YSEALI program. I’m going to focus, I think, today on the environment, on climate, on some of the incredible work that you’ve done.

But I just wanted to say at the beginning that this program is one of the things that is nearest and dearest to my heart, to President Biden’s, and of course when we both worked with President Obama, it’s something that he felt pretty strong. Because, as you know from your own experience, it does so many wonders to connect some of the most remarkable members of the younger generation here in Cambodia and throughout Southeast Asia with the United States, with young Americans, with our leading universities, and hopefully not only give you some experience and knowledge and tools to build on the things you want to do back home, but also create remarkable networks with each other that last far beyond your formal participation in the program.

Cambodia will host the next big session of YSEALI later this year. I think it’s an opportunity to bring together another remarkable generation of young people. So we’re really, really looking forward to that. And at the same time, there is a very strong network here in Cambodia, the thousands of Cambodians who are part of the YSEALI network, the 300 or so alumni at this point. But I want to learn from you about your experience with the program but also, especially, the work that you do, the experience that you have working to help protect the environment, to address the challenges that all of ours. countries facing climate change to build a truly sustainable future where people across Cambodia can provide for themselves, provide for their country.

I was just – by the way, I came from a wonderful program that we have with Cambodians who are in the agricultural sector, and I saw some of these remarkable products that we helped build partnerships to produce and export, from cashew nuts to. mangoes, but made in an ecologically protective way. And all of this is, I think, a huge opportunity in the future to make sure that we do what is necessary both to protect our planet but also to give our people a chance. And I know that each of you in different ways is working on this.

So I tend not to talk and really listen to each of you and have a conversation. So why don’t I stop there and we can open it up.

MISS GARCIA: OK. Thank you, sir. Well, to open it – oh, I think they want to applaud. (Applause.)  Okay, okay. So to open it up, I’d like to turn it over to Cynthia Chen(ph), who’s going to start us off with a little story about her experience.

QUESTION:  So good afternoon, Mr. Secretary, and good afternoon, Mr. Ambassador, and good morning, everyone. Really, thanks for coming here and (inaudible) with YSEALI. (Inaudible) ambassador working on the issue of fish migration and the chain of water quality and (inaudible) the Mekong River.

Before YSEALI, I wasn’t doing so well in school, but along the way I did (inaudible). And I was surrounded by a lot of great people, and they kept telling me that you did a great job and you should apply to YSEALI. But I keep – I have a certain doubt because my GPA is only 2.0, and I kept questioning my ability to learn and grow. But with them to encourage me to apply to YSEALI, and I passed YSEALI, and during the fellowship I actually met one inspiring woman named Susie Lacey (ph). It’s the best (inaudible). And she told me, like, the first thing is to come and tell us in front of us young people that – the YSEALI people. She said that thank you, and America is glad to have you here, and what you have done is important for this generation and the next generation.

Right now I feel, like, awake because really, those things and – I mean, like, we really have those things like us as Cambodians. And we are young. We are very energetic. And with those supports, those acknowledgments, those recognitions, we feel that it helps us live as well as a quarter of (inaudible) say it’s never too young to live.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you. What you said is really important because – and it’s especially important for me to hear that because one of the things that happens is as you get older – (laughter) – you get a little more set in your ways. Even if you try to have the most open mind possible, we are all the product of our own experiences and what we have done. And the most important thing is for all of you, this generation and the generation that will follow you, to make sure that we think in fresh ways and new ways about the challenges that we face.

And the simple truth is this just because we did something one way for the last 50 years doesn’t mean we have to do it the same way for the next 50 years. So your ability to think again about things, to look at maybe how we can do something better, and then to challenge all of us who may be in positions of responsibility to do the same – that’s the most important thing. This is how we progress. So thank you.

MISS GARCIA:  Well, thank you very much. With that, I would like to invite our friends from the press to please come out.

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