On Wednesday January 22nd, 2014, the Ambassador of the United States of America to the Republic of South Africa, Mr. Patrick Gaspard was the Distinguished Guest Speaker at African Leadership Academy (ALA). Speaking on the theme, Reflections on Leadership, Ambassador Gaspard drew from his own leadership journey to motivate the young leaders at ALA to pursue their passions and break new grounds where they are least expected to succeed.

Photo Courtesy: US Consulate in South Africa

Ambassador Gaspard talked about growing up as a child of Haitian descendants and his early discovery of his father’s work ethic being an immigrant in the United States. He talked further of his early exposure to Africa, having been born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and joining the anti-Apartheid movement in the United States as a teenager before making his first trip to South Africa in 1991. He recalled a statement made by his father, which shaped his perspective on Africa, saying “My father taught me that my success will ultimately be tied to the success of the African continent”.

Having drawn on his wide involvement in the social justice movement in the United States and his involvement in the democratic political system in the United States, working with Rev Jesse Jackson and eventually becoming National Political Director for the 2008 campaign of President Barack Obama, he concluded his speech by detailing American interests in Africa including youth empowerment, improving health care in Africa, improving intra-Africa trade, sharing best practices on education outcomes and recognizing the co-dependence of America and Africa.

In his parting words to ALA’s young leaders, he said “People talk about the natural resources, the diamonds, the gold, the oil of Africa; you are the real gold, the real oil, the real precious commodity of Africa. Go out and do something that people perceive to be impossible”.

The full video of the speech can be seen here: