Statement by H. E President Litokwa Tomeing
Open Day Event
RMI-USP Joint Higher Education Program
Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands
Excellencies Members of the Diplomatic Corps, honorable guests, staff and faculty of the USP Majuro Campus and the RMI-USP Joint Education Program, parents and students.
I am grateful for your kind invitation for me to attend your Open Day event today, and to say a few words.
I take this opportunity to express my sincere and abiding gratitude to the late Principal of the RMI –USP Program, Maselina Sefeti, for her excellent record of devotion and service. I convey my deep appreciation to her husband Fereti Sefeti and family for choosing to return to the Marshall Islands to continue serving in the Program.
Having proven its worth already, this Program has tremendous potential in elevating the standard of education in this country, in addressing our challenges. My hope, as has been the expressed hope of those before me, that it will soon develop into a full-fledged campus in which every aspiring Marshallese student will benefit.
During the past several weeks, I have been delivering speeches and statements to all kinds of audiences in different countries, and on different subjects. I even had the wonderful opportunity at the main campus in Suva, Fiji, to present graduating certificates to some of our students who completed their Foundation studies here.
But to-day, I am especially pleased at the opportunity to talk directly to you students and to those of you young people whose whole future lies ahead of you. Our country is going through some trying changes.
Certain changes are imposed on us, others are within our ability to harness.
A few months ago, the rapid rise in fuel costs gave the government no choice but to declare a state of economic emergency. As the cause of the problem is external, I have raised this issue in every regional and international forum I attended.
Our small islands are highly vulnerable to climate change and its environmental impact. Our very own survival is under threat. At the United Nations two weeks ago, I called upon the international community to wage war on the dangers imposed by climate change on small island countries like ours.
We have nothing to do with these crises. We did not cause them nor did we contribute to their existence. And yet we have borne and are bearing their full effect.
The lesson is clear: whether we choose to or not, we are connected to every other part of the globe. Whatever happens elsewhere in the world directly affects us. We may be a sovereign state, but climate change has no respect for national borders.
In a similar way, education has no limits to its reach. It is as far-reaching as climate change in the scope of its effect. But there is a significant difference here: we have the capacity to control it. We can either take advantage of it, or we let it slip through or our fingers. Or we can waste it altogether.
The choice is yours. Our future is in your hands students, and so is the future of your family and country. The best that government and other nongovernmental institutions can do is to make it possible for you to gain access to the best educational opportunity there is - to ensure that you have the best teachers, the best facilities, the best material we can afford. Generally, at least in this regard, parents cannot play a significant role.
The best that we parents can do, however, is to ensure that we create a suitable home environment that is nurturing. A home that is supportive of your effort to learn. A home whose role is to mold and shape the character and discipline of the young people. Government can surely play a limited a role here, but the full responsibility lies with parents.
What is your role then? I believe your role is to apply yourself to your studies. Neither government nor parents, nor anyone else can do this for you.
There is a saying that you can take a horse to a river, but if the horse does not want to drink, there is nothing you can do about it. You may flog the poor thing to death; it will be a total waste of your time.
Thus, we may furnish you with the most modern classrooms, up-to-date text books, extensive libraries, well equipped labs, and the best of qualified teachers. But if you choose not to exert yourself, if you choose not to sweat over your studies, if you do not burn the midnight oil – in short, if you do not take advantage of, or reach out and hold fast to the opportunity given, there is nothing anyone can do to help you.
In the past few weeks, my duties and obligations as President required me to travel to countries in the South Pacific, to the USP, to the Pacific Forum, and later to the United Nations, New York. I can assure you students that the world is changing rapidly out there, and it is not waiting for us to keep up.
Out duty now is to be fully aware of this fact. Our task is to prepare ourselves to respond and meet the challenges which directly affect us now and in the future. Our responsibility is to ensure that progress does not pass us by, leaving us behind.
If there was a short-cut to success, if there was an easier way out, I can assure you that I would have given it to you on a silver plate. But there was never one, and I can assure you now, that there never will be. There is no short-cut to success except hard work.
Did you know that we do not have any Marshallese doctor students in the pipeline? Did you know that if we fail to act now, there will be no Marshallese doctors in our hospitals in the next fifteen years?
The government is committed to do all that it can. It will provide assistance including scholarships to ensure you achieve your academic career be it in the medical field, or in law at the USP Law School, or in any other useful field. Our hope rests fully on you.
Let me admit here that I had never been so proud as I was when I presented graduating certificates to Marshallese students at the Graduation Ceremony, in August this year at the USP Campus, Suva.
I am hopeful, very hopeful that you students, under the skillful and dedicated service and guidance of the staff and administrators of the RMI –USP, will diligently apply yourselves to your studies and achieve that which is the true mark of an educated and well-trained mind. Nothing will make us more proud than this.
We need you. Your family and the nation need you.
My very best wishes for your future.