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J.M. Echandi: The Challenge for New Generations

Excerpts of Speech to International Leadership Conference

Asunción, Paraguay, July 2-6, 2008

I come from Costa Rica, a country which more than 60 years ago made a declaration of peace to the world and constitutionally eliminated its army. Peace is inherent in the being of the Costa Rican people. As a legislator, democratically elected by the Costa Rican people, I bring a brotherly embrace to all who have assembled here to give birth to peace.

Thank you, brothers and sisters of Paraguay, for such a warm welcome to this territory which we never get tired of admiring for its scenic beauty and warmth of its inhabitants.

Throughout my public life, God has allowed me to always be linked to organizations that continually fight for the respect and preservation of human rights. It has been my role to fight intensely for children, young people, and the citizenry in general, securing their human and civic rights in the face of the great changes that characterize our modern times. On this occasion I come in humility to learn, to compare ideas and thoughts, and to set forth for your consideration these reflections.

Our societies always have to remain alert and proactive in order to ensure that the youth of today and the new generations have the space they need and an absolute guarantee of their rights, not only theoretically but practically and concretely. Our society that is characterized by quantitative leaps in science and technology should provide for young people opportunities to gain not only knowledge about all these phenomena but also understanding, so they will not be manipulated by expertise and opportunity, which threaten to prevent our young people from successfully facing the future. The free right to information, opportunities to study, and integrated growth can be restricted by the limited access to the incomparable advances that are developing in the world. This is a providential human right which we should defend and secure.

Education is thus a fundamental pillar of development. The formation of our minds, bodies, and spirits will ensure that we will follow the proper direction in dealing with underdevelopment. Let us cultivate our minds and spirits, and the rest of what is necessary will be added to it.

Our beloved Latin America should be united and integrated in the differentiation and respect for each country’s own realities. This is our governments’ basic responsibility in promoting peace as the essential reality and the integral development of their inhabitations.

Peace, that goal so longed for by humanity in the course of history, begins with and within each one of us. Our internal peace, originating in the congruence of our thoughts, words, and actions and sustained in the optimal relationship of mind-body unity, should be a beacon which illuminates our existence as individuals, communities, countries, world, and the entire universe.

Faith is central among our youth of today. We hear many times how the young people are the generation of the future, but I invite you to take into account the youth today, because tomorrow they will be the adult population that we constitute today. One cannot say with certainty that our youth are lost, as we sometimes hear. Our youth, perhaps, have been asleep in a society that is at a high risk of decay and self-destruction. It is the responsibility of this generation to open the doors for the real and concrete participation of the youth, the emerging leaders who want to serve and grow in harmony with the universe. Difficult times are approaching and have begun to reveal their tentacles: the petroleum crisis; climate change; food shortage; regional conflicts; rise in delinquency; dominance of self-interest instead of the common good on the part of nations, organizations, and people; openness mediated by large economic interests; etc. All of these have repercussions, unfortunately, on our people.

This is where our new leaders, the youth who have been shaped by great opportunities they see around them and long to avail themselves of them, should raise the banner of service and willingness to assume responsibility for the development of our people. The advances of science and technology permit development. Each time we think about the wide vista of the world before our youth, the endorphins in our brain stimulate us to view the future with optimism.

Convocations like this one acquire relevance when people’s thoughts and actions converge to strengthen the atmosphere of peace in the world, permitting dialogue and communication among groups which have until now been separated by egocentric visions, so that every one of us who wishes to achieve peace can express our ideas and consolidate communities' thought, word, and deed in the quest of the lasting peace and level of economic, social, and human development which the inhabitants of our beloved region deserve and so eagerly await.

The responsibility is ours. The time is now. Tomorrow will be too late. The alternative is clear: it requires a holistic growth. The personal relationship between human beings and their Creator, regardless of their religious affiliation, is the key to success: human beings empowered by all these marvelous capacities and skills to confront a world which has been inclined toward evil; human beings, as the central figures of creation endowed by the Almighty to be guides and change agents of the signposts of history; human beings responsible for their actions standing up to be counted; human beings putting an end to the ruthless destruction of the flora and fauna of the world and the irrational contamination of the environment; human beings distinguished by nature as unique, causal, and integrated beings, leading the initiatives for true peace, true love, and all humanity as one family under God.