The University of Virginia kicked off the Mandela Washington Fellowship, a signature program of the Obama administration, on Monday, June 22. Twenty-five young emerging leaders from Africa, selected by the Department of State, were welcomed to the luncheon ceremony at the university. The event was part of the Young African Leaders Initiative program (YALI), now in its second summer.
National Museum of African Art Director Johnnetta Betsch Cole was the keynote speaker for the program. Dr. Cole quoted Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, telling the fellows that “the size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams do not scare you they are not big enough”. Dr. Cole also congratulated the accomplished men and women for being selected. “Many, many applied,” she said. “You are among the chosen. Africa’s youth is its strength and the possibilities are endless”.
President Obama named the young leaders “Mandela Fellows” to honor the life and work of former South Africa President Nelson Mandela. More than 30,000 women and men, aged 25 to 35, applied to become part of the 2015 fellowship class. Only 500 people were chosen. The Mandela Fellows will study business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership, and public management this summer at colleges and universities across the United States.