ESU Lebanon – words by honorary secretary, Mona Shahine
Youth is a time where all possibilities are open; it is the time when ambitions become projects that could change realities. Indeed, most young people have high aspirations for themselves. Therefore, ensuring that students have the knowledge and skills to progress towards their aspirations is likely to be more effective when they have a platform that can help them achieve their goals. Very humbly, what ESU Lebanon has offered the country’s youth through the programs it runs, particularly the national public speaking competition, has opened doors for many.
Lebanon’s first Public Speaking Competition was hosted in the year 2000 at the British Council in Beirut. The first winners to go to London were Rana Haidar and Susan Mourjan, who both saw in this opportunity a chance to grow and become the better version of themselves. Both Rana and Susan have expressed how taking part in the national Public Speaking competition and the IPSC have helped them achieve their goals in life. Today, both are university instructors who encourage their own students to have a voice to bring about change. Eighteen years later and having reached hundreds of young people, the national public speaking competition is still going strong and we are proud to say that we have established a permanent platform that attracts university students to express their own views and feelings.
Every year, the Lebanese American University hosts the national public speaking competition, and prior to that, sister universities have hosted their own in-house competition and chosen two contestants to participate. The mere fact that these contestants participate in the competition and express their thoughts openly and freely is a testimony of their courage - they want their voices heard. Many have expressed how speaking publicly has changed their outlook on life and built their confidence to take on new challenges. Sawsan Wehbe, 2017 IPSC participant, defines her experience in London as empowering, eager that her voice can and will be heard to bring about change for a better future in her community. This year’s national winner and international finalist, Kamel Wehbe, argued in his speech that the only way for Lebanon’s youth to shape the future is through a “holistic, affordable and experiential education.” Kamel Wehbe used his words to break the confines set by society, imploring that “We must refuse to let our youth be limited by predictions set for a country that may very well be small geographically, but is infinite in its resilience, potential, and hard work of its people.” The voices of young adults like Kamel and other ESU/PSC contestants can not only create ripples of change across Lebanon, they can also help reduce the differences that burden our society. In a country like Lebanon, allowing the youth to use their words as weapons to defy limits and break the silence can change the communication game.
The programmes that ESU Lebanon has run in the past, and hopes to continue, are groundbreaking, exhilarating and empowering. They allow people, of all ages, to learn about and discuss human nature and the power of community. Consequently, ESU Lebanon is proud to be doing its part in raising the aspirations of its youth.
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