This is an extract from the speech i gave at the Atlas Corps Summer celebration. I share this with the hope it inspires, but even more importantly,it motivates us to love
One of the most profound memories I have as a young girl growing up in Nairobi, was my desire to explore the world. I would often sit on a stone platform we had outside our house, appreciate the night sky and dream about far-away lands. The most exciting place for me was the airport! I was fascinated by airports. I longed to complain about flight delays and layovers in London (because that is what people who would travel to far-away lands would do). Fast forward to many years and flights afterwards, last year, I got accepted into this amazing fellowship. I left Nairobi for the United States and was flying through Zurich. In a strange twist of fate, not only was my connecting flight delayed, in the confusion I ended up missing it and had an overnight lay over. My childhood dreams of long lay-overs in Europe were finally coming true! Ladies and gentlemen , that is how my Atlas Corps fellowship journey started.
My dreams and aspirations have changed a lot since then, as I grew older, I realized that the world was not just an amazing place to explore, but it was also filled with inequality, injustice, corruption, discrimination…I realized that the world was broken and I could not live a life of self-gratification. I was deeply compelled to make a difference. This fellowship has been a way of making that difference, not only by serving a diverse community in South Bronx, but also by learning and interacting with all of you.
One of the key expectations that I had when I started the fellowship was that I would grow so much that I would barely recognize the leader I was prior to the fellowship. A little audacious, yes, but oh how I have grown, personally, professionally, relationally and spiritually. My mother also thinks I have grown physically, I am in denial but that is also true. All in all, it has been a life-changing opportunity that I am very grateful for!
My fellow fellows, class 31, we have had many memorable moments, We have shared loud hearty (almost embarrassing) laughter, we have traversed this great country together, we have taken thousands of photos, most are plastered on our social media pages, and as vain as that sometimes sounds, it has been a beautiful message to the world, that we may come from different parts of the world, that we may even look different, talk different, worship differently but ultimately we care and deeply appreciate each other.
I have also listened to your stories with amazement, you are all such incredible leaders, you have inspired me many times over, your passion and zeal for change has been contagious. I now know that we are fighting common enemies; repressive governments, poverty, corruption, and with my fellow women; societal expectations that aim to stifle our ambitions. However, those enemies unite us. Like any great army, we stick together, we defend each other, we fight together. Yes, I said army because that is exactly what we are. Our ammunition is love, our intellect and our shared experiences. So thank you for teaching me that real change cannot be achieved by a single woman from Nairobi, that we are better and stronger together. I need you, and you can count on me to be there for you.
In conclusion, I know that in this room, I am speaking to a future president, government official, diplomat or top executive, when you are on that platform, many or even a few years from now, remember that this network is relying on you to be an honest, empathetic and committed leader. We will be a cloud of witnesses keeping you accountable and cheering you on. Even more important, remember love.
I leave you all with these words of Martin Luther King Junior:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.