I feel incredibly honoured this afternoon to speak to a group of such inspiring people. My friend Daniel and I are both running to become the member of provincial parliament for the riding of Willowdale and so they’ve asked us to tell you a bit about why we’re each running, what we plan to do for the community, and say a few words to you about leadership.
I grew up here in Toronto. My parents immigrated from Korea and I watched them work day and night to make sure that my siblings and I had every opportunity. I remember when I was your age, people were always talking to me about leadership. It seemed like my parents, my teachers, my coaches were always saying to my friends and I: “you are the leaders of tomorrow”.
Well today, I want to say that you are NOT the leaders of tomorrow…
You can’t be, because we need you to lead right now.
I decided to run for politics because I looked around our community, our country, our world and I saw things that I think need to be fixed. I see young people like you who graduate university with huge student loan dept, who can’t find a job, who can’t afford to rent let alone buy a house in our amazing city. I see people like my parents who are going to need health care as they get older from a system that currently can’t support them. I see a world that’s not taking care of our environment and protecting it for your generation and generations to come. So I felt that I had to do something about it. That unless I stood up and said: I’m going to lead, I’m going to make a change, I’m going to fix these problems that I see in the world, no one would.
But the truth is I can’t do it alone. And although at 39 I’m not too too old (although I’m sure that seems ancient to you guys!) the world can’t wait for you to be the leaders of tomorrow. We, I, the world needs your help right now.
I know it’s a lot to ask. Leadership is hard. This political campaign has been incredibly difficult for me. It’s been stressful, and tiring, and people have spread nasty rumours about me but leadership, true leadership, is having the courage to do what’s right. And I know that sounds lame but I honestly believe that if you stand by your convictions, if you treat other people with respect and fairness, if you speak out against the lies and gossip, if you take the high road, people will follow you and you can change the world.
Decisions are made by the people who show up. The fact that you’re all here today means that you’re already leaders. So get involved, get your hands dirty, it’s the best way to ‘learn’ how to be a leader. Join a political campaign, volunteer for an advocacy group, protest, write a letter to the newspaper, tweet. Don’t ever let so called grown-ups tell you you’re too young, or that you’re out of line.
We’re facing some big issues. And the choices being made now by politicians will effect you now and for years to come. I wish that I had all the answers but the truth is I don’t and so in closing I want to make you a promise, the same promise that I make to every member of our community: that as an MPP my door will always be open. I will always have time to listen to you, and the issues you care about, and most importantly to your ideas. I need your help, I need your ideas and your voice, and your leadership so that together we can make our city, our province, our country and our world better.