IT’S often been said that the youth are the future. Recognizing this truth, Youth Leadership Month, powered by AIESEC, will be celebrated this March through the Youth Leadership Month, with a goal of developing and nurturing the next generation of Filipino leaders.
Being the project manager of Youth Leadership Month is not easy.
Neither is it a hobby, a past-time, or simply just another person assigned to execute an “org event” that we wanted to use to make a name for ourselves. As weird as it sounds, Youth Leadership Month is, in fact, not about my organization.
To be held for the entirety of the month, the movement aims to advocate “youth leadership development in the Philippines.” It was the first time my organization did something like this, so naturally I was scared and intimidated by how big the project was.
When I took on the role of project manager, I was asked several times why I said yes to this. I’ve been asked why I’m tiring myself out for such a big project when I could just be focusing on my academics and making a “better future” for myself. Those questions would come from the partners I would talk to, my parents, and even my closest friends.
In some cases—and I am definitely not proud of this –those questions came from myself. On some really horrible days, I would think to myself, “I should quit. I’m just one person anyway and I’m too young for this.”
But it did not make sense for me to quit, and I realize that now. If I quit now, when I had the chance to change the way young people think about leadership, then I wouldn’t be embodying the “leadership” that you and I aspire for in our country’s own government. I wouldn’t be doing justice to what the Filipino youth can actually do for this country.
Youth Leadership Month is precisely about changing that kind of intimidated mindset that I know not only comes from me, but probably comes from you too. I know that sometimes, you would shy away from “youth leadership” because you’d think “Leadership isn’t really my thing.” I know this because there would be times when I would think the same.
Between you and me, “youth leadership” is difficult, but it is not what you think it is. It is not limited to people in position; it is not limited to young people with titles, and it is especially not limited to people who are “smarter,” “more able,” or “who can probably do it better.” The problem is exactly that – we leave leadership up to the people we deem better than ourselves and resort to demanding much of them instead of asking, “What can I do to maximize my contribution to this country?
Why am I making excuses for not demanding as much from myself?”
Imagine if every Filipino starts asking those questions as early as when they are 15, 16, or 17 years old. Imagine if from that very young age, they strive to be better versions of themselves. What if they were people who genuinely cared about issues and problems outside their own and make a point to be accountable for them; people who not only say they have a certain set of values, but actually see to it that they embody them even when difficult circumstances arise; people who seek to empower and help others; people who avoid complaining and instead think, “okay, how might we solve this problem?” Just imagine where this country would be if Filipinos developed that mindset and those qualities in their youth.
This is what Youth Leadership Month is about. It is not about formal titles and fancy speeches. It is simply about you and me, believing that the youth together can achieve great things for this country—no matter what field, course, or advocacy you might have—if only we strived to develop ourselves, and sharing this belief with more Filipinos.
(The author is the president of AIESEC Philippines. AIESEC is a global platform for young people to explore and develop their leadership potential. It is a non-political, independent, not-for-profit organization run by students and recent graduates of institutions of higher education.)