Speech of Mr Sean Callahan, USAID
• Your Excellency Governor Khem Satha
• Honorable members of the Salesian Mission, Father Mark Hyde and Father Roel Soto.
• Ms Lidia Linde, president and founder of Together for Cambodia Organization
• Father Albeiro Rodas – The director of this fine institution
• Distinguished members of the donor, faith-based, and NGO communities
• Distinguished members of the government, invited guests and the press
• Ladies and gentlemen and students
Thank you for the opportunity to be with you this morning as we commemorate the efforts that have been made to make this school more accessible to all students, regardless of physical impairments. This is not only a great day for the Don Bosco School here in Kep, but also for Cambodia. The right to education is universal and extends to all children, youth, and adults. We all know that every child is unique and different. They have different abilities, learn in different ways, and at different paces. The majority of children with disabilities in developing countries are currently out of school, while many of those enrolled are not learning. Making sure boys and girls with disabilities can go to school and learn is a prerequisite for country to reach its full potential and have inclusive economic growth.
Throughout the world, there is a need for inclusive, learning-friendly, and barrier-free environments in schools and communities so that all children can develop to their full academic, social, emotional, and physical potential.
I want to thank the leadership of Don Bosco for having the vision to create a school where all children are welcomed. Many teachers, school administrators and parents are worried about the consequences of enrolling children with disabilities in their schools. This mindset results in children being turned away and excluded from educational opportunities. You not only fight against this mindset but you actively work to demonstrate that where there is a will there is a way. You serve as a beacon. Your example shows us that all children have a right to an education. You don’t see disabilities – you see potential. Children with great potential are often impaired by the physical environment around them. Thank you for lifting those barriers.
I commend you for the work that you have done and for refusing to accept the world as it is but for seeing this school and the children that attend it for who they can become. One where all people, regardless of disability, enjoy equal access, equal opportunity, and receive the education they need to realize their limitless potential. By investing in these children’s education, you are preparing them to meet the needs of the 21st century – regardless of disability. We are proud to partner with Don Bosco to help turn these aspirations into reality.
In closing I would like to draw from a personal favorite author of mine, Dr. Seuss, and share a message specifically for you students. Remember:
“You have brains in your head. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” “And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!