This past Friday I had the privilege of addressing the opening of the 2nd Annual Nordic Somali Youth Summit, which took place this year in Stockholm. The Summit is a multi-dimensional work-shop driven conference with the following aims: (i) mobilizing and promoting youth engagement and action. (ii) engaging and enhancing development of individual champions for the Somali youth cause among political, business and civil society spheres in the four Nordic countries of focus: Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland (iii) building upon established efforts and connections made at the 2012 Nordic Youth Summit. But one of the really valuable results of the Summit was the building of a network and advancing connections between and among Somali youth who live in Sweden and the Nordics. Simply put, having a network and a wide array of connections is empowering, whether it be to advance professional, business, political or social goals. Today, a friend or colleague is just an email away, and to have the opportunity to introduce oneself, share a perspective and remain in touch has great value.
In my remarks I emphasized President Obama’s message of inclusivity and the fact that America is an immigrant rich society. As President Obama stated earlier this year: “We define ourselves as a nation of immigrants. That’s who we are — in our bones. The promise we see in those who come here from every corner of the globe, that’s always been one of our greatest strengths. It keeps our workforce young. It keeps our country on the cutting edge. And it’s helped build the greatest economic engine the world has ever known. “
I tried to build on the President’s message by emphasizing how America is a land that really embraces immigrants. In fact, when Americans are lucky enough to be awarded the Nobel Prize and come to Stockholm to receive it, the US Embassy always hosts a reception in their honor. And I shared with the audience at the Somali Youth Summit the fact that 25 percent of Americans who have received the Nobel Prize have been born elsewhere. Our country is indeed enriched by their contributions and the contributions of many other immigrants!
I was really impressed by both the music but also the words shared by Swedish American musician Timbuktu – he really drew out the audience around the questions “Who views themselves as Swedish?” and “How are you viewed by others?” and “what is it that we can do together as a community?” Timbuktu shared the personal story of his father, who had emigrated to Lund to study years ago, at a time when there were well fewer immigrants in Sweden. As I listened to him, I thought of my own Dad and Mom, who were born in Poland and Czechoslovakia but who were cast on the shores of America by World War II. The struggle for inclusion is shared by all newcomers, and the immense contribution by immigrants to society is shared by both Sweden and America.
A great conference and I am so glad I had the opportunity to participate.