Ambassador from Nigeria, Mohamed Camara on his experience speaking at this year’s Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa.
One Young World opened my eyes to the great impact youth can make in society. I was particularly inspired by Ambassadors like Ajarat Bada, Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, Bariq Rifki, Parker Liautaud, Clinton Gachangi and many others. Until I started following One Young World online, I had not identified a particular area to make positive change.
I have been a professional debater and leadership coach for about two years now, and I am skilled in public analyses. One Young World however is not about analysing global issues, but finding solutions to them and taking concrete action.
On 3 October 2013, I took to the One Young World stage, something I had dreamt about for years. I had spoken to over 6,000 youths in Nigeria on various topics and even emerged as the best debater at the Nigerian Inter-tertiary debates. But this time, something was different, I was feeling very nervous.
Going back to the Summit’s Opening Ceremony, my wonderful speech coach Melanie York had just informed me that, at the first Summit in Africa, I was to be first speaker. This was a huge task because on top of delivering a fantastic speech to inspire others, it was coupled with the tension of being the first to take the stage. I had no idea what to expect.
The Opening Ceremony was great but I could not stop thinking about my speech. I watched everybody dance and celebrate, but I was constantly reminded that I was going to be the first to speak the next day.
On the morning of my speech I met Johannes Evenblij, the Counsellor who introduced me onto the stage. I was given time to network with other speakers and Counsellors, where I met five other youths driving change in different corners of the world, and I thought to myself, I am in the right place. The second delegate speaker, Idris Barzani was very encouraging when I shared my worries about being the first speaker.
On stage Mr. Evenblij asked me to rise whilst giving his introduction. I stood up, the room looked massive. There were so many different faces from different cultures and backgrounds. I became more nervous. The most spectacular moment for me however, was when I heard applause coming from all corners of the room before I had even said anything. I remember Melanie once told me, “Camara, the crowd wants you to succeed.” This was really exhilarating for me, most delegates knew nothing about me and had never heard me speak but they kept on clapping. Their warm reception helped me start to overcome my nerves.
It was challenging on stage. Being the first speaker I could not watch and learn from others. My script almost flew off the stage at one point. It took me a while to settle in. There were so many big screens around, which were highly distracting. Some had my face staring at me and I was tempted to stare back at myself. Another one had a big timer counting down, which I thought might set off an alarm when time was up.
After my nerves dispersed, I was able to enjoy speaking. A lot of preparation had gone into my speech. I took part in online rehearsals and the One Young World team helped ensure that I was ready. The atmosphere in the hall was one of the most friendly that I have ever experienced. It was truly valuable to me when 1,250 delegates and Ambassadors from 190 countries all listened to me attentively with smiles and encouragement.
Among the hundreds of speeches I delivered in the last years, my One Young World speech was the most passionate. I felt like I was going to weep at the time, especially when I spoke about my illiterate and poor background, the need for compassion, and when I thought about the 57 million children that are out of school. I felt humbled and more determined to continue to act. It didn’t feel like I spent five minutes on stage, it seemed like I was only speaking for 30 seconds. I had so much fun and wished I could continue.
As the first speaker, and with my unique African attire, almost everyone in the hall said hi and remembered something from my speech. I was glad to be the first speaker after all. I also had the opportunity to do what I did best, speaking to and sharing ideas with people on how to carry out concrete actions to provide access to education using our organisation, the Slum to School’s model. The Summit also provided me with global media attention and most importantly, I met my role model, Mr. Kofi Annan, other global leaders, and delegates, who are forging a partnership with me to expand our impact in education.
Deplaning in Lagos, Nigeria, I said to myself: “Indeed, dreams do come true. More impacts are to be made.”