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Forest Whitaker speaks with students at the University of Juba

Forest Whitaker tells students at the University of Juba that the future of their country is a blank page that their generation is going to write upon

27 April 2017, Juba, South Sudan

Our CEO Forest Whitaker delivered keynote remarks at the University of Juba on 27 April 2017. With its 10,000 students and 400 faculty, the University is a leading institution in the country. In tune with the motto of the University, “Inventing the Future…Transforming Society”, Forest Whitaker’s speech mainly focused on the responsibility the students bear as the next generation of South Sudanese leaders. Their country is the youngest to have been established but it is also a country that is going through the critical and painful trials of a civil war compounding and compounded by a grave humanitarian situation. Forest Whitaker told the students that they were tasked to find in themselves courage and the imagination to make lasting peace and sustainable development tangible realities for their fellow citizens. He said that, “more so than for most of your peers in other countries, your future is largely a blank page that your generation is going to write upon.”

Such task is not as immense as one would think, he immediately added. As everyday citizens or as leaders, the responsibility for peace starts with daily actions based on respect, patience and openness. He defined peace as the name for the accumulation of myriads of these actions. True peace, in his view as UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace, isn’t just the absence of conflict; it is the presence of a positive environment. Peace means people having their most-basic human needs met. Peace means children able to go to school. Adults able to find work. People able to come together to resolve their differences peacefully.

To achieve such peace, Forest Whitaker told the students that their generation would have to break the cycles of conflict that negatively impacted their country in the recent period as well as the past decades. He mentioned the youth peacemakers he trains and supports through the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative. He voiced his conviction that the projects they develop and the initiatives they take today will have ripple effects tomorrow.

Forest Whitaker closed his address urging students to live with honesty and integrity and listen to each other, work together so peace will be a reality for all in South Sudan.

The session concluded on a series of questions on his activities in South Sudan by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Professor Pauline Elaine Riak. Elaborating on his experience with the country, its people and its youth in particular, Forest Whitaker expressed his concerns at to the present situation but also his hopes as to the future of South Sudan.

Forest Whitaker’s address to the University of Juba is part of a visit of South Sudan that he has undertaken to assess his youth programs in Juba and in the State of Eastern Equatoria and to launch a new branch of the Youth Peacemaker Network in the State of Western Equatoria.