Keynote Speech By Francis Asenso-Boakye At The Rotary International District 9102 Conference
Distinguished Rotarians, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I feel greatly honoured to have been invited to this Conference and be asked to address this very distinguished gathering as Keynote Speaker.
I owe the Rotary Foundation far more than a speech. I owe you eternal gratitude above all, for I am one of the millions of people the world over whose lives have been bettered or transformed because of the vision and generosity of the Rotary Foundation.
As a young boy growing up in Bantama, in the heart of Kumasi, I was spared the misfortune of many of my childhood friends who dropped out at the basic school level. As I made my way, step by step, up the educational ladder, my close-knit community kept encouraging and urging me on. When, upon completing university, I answered an ad in the papers and was selected, out of over 300 applicants, and awarded a scholarship to study in North America, my entire neighbourhood was thrown into a celebration.
That ad in the national dailies had been placed by the Rotary Foundation and the scholarship Rotary awarded me enabled me to pursue graduate studies at Michigan State University, in the United States, where I graduated with a master of public policy and administration.
During my time at Michigan State, I had the opportunity and pleasure, as a Rotary scholar, to speak at many clubs in Rotary District 6400, compromising part of Michigan, USA and Ontario, Canada.
These were extraordinary times in my life, and they provided me a unique opportunity to appreciate and experience the enduring Rotary values of service above self and dedicating one’s life to a cause.
I was blessed and privileged to stay in the homes of incredibly kind-hearted and genuinely affectionate families. I treasure the moments shared with them, learnt new things and new ways of doing things and experienced and appreciated the beauty and value in peoples of diverse cultures and world views.
I would like to use this occasion to pay a special tribute to Bob Gallagher and his lovely wife, Mary Jean, my host family. It was during Bob Gallagher's time as Rotary District 6400 Governor that his district provided a scholarship to a young man they hadn’t seen before, somewhere in Africa. God bless them. I’m gratified that on a trip to North America last winter, I was able to visit them in Windsor, Canada; though I can never quite repay their generosity.
My Rotary opportunity and experience also helped cement my interest in public service as a way of giving back to my society and helping to make it a better place for all. While still at Michigan State, I had the opportunity to work as a legislative intern at the Michigan House of Representatives, thus getting my first taste of the inner workings of the policy-making and legislative process of government.
Upon my return home, I pursued interests in both the public and private sectors, before answering the call to return to the interest in politics I had begun to nurture as an undergraduate student at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. This path soon led me to a position as political assistant to the then Presidential Candidate of the New Patriotic Party, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in 2008 – a position I am humbled and privileged to say, I still hold, but this time, with my boss as President of the Republic.
I think you would agree with me, and it would be no exaggeration to say, that the Rotary investment and experience have paid off quite well. Thank you, again, from the bottom of my heart.
The timeless virtues and values my Rotary experience instilled in me – integrity, service, compassion, and dedication continue to serve me well in my current role.
In my position as Deputy Chief of Staff at the presidency, I am often called upon to assist people with all manner of needs, both mundane and exceptional. While it is often not possible to answer these requests in a personal way, they are constant reminders to me of the persistent struggles and needs of my fellow compatriots and thus motivating me to continue to serve the President to enable him and our government address society's needs equitably.
Within my own community of Bantama, I have stayed engaged with the youth, providing them mentorship and counsel. I have also tried, within the limits of my resources, to support my community in other diverse ways.
In all this, I strive to practice what I have learned from Rotary: that we receive, often in excess of our own immediate needs, so that we, too, may give to those in need.
I remain thankful to the Rotary Foundation for putting me on a path that has made me into a better citizen and an asset to my community and society at large.
Thank you and God bless us all!