Here is the full transcript of Andre Damian’s TEDx Talk: Stop Waiting for Tomorrow. Be a Leader of Today at TEDxYouth@Brabantlaan conference.
Have you ever had that feeling that you wanted to say something so bad, but you didn’t know how to say it? That brings a lump in your throat and you feel you have the weight of the world on your shoulders because you’re walking around with a secret. That’s how I felt eight years ago.
This is how I looked like. Imagine you’re sitting next to me in my house in Kesteren, a small village where I just moved to. You’d see it’s still dark outside. It’s 6 o’clock in the morning, and I’m getting up for school. Like the village, the living room feels empty.
We received most of the furniture from friends. I sit on the couch, and I stare blankly into the space. But at school, I was the happy boy you see in the photo there. I had good grades, and had a lot of friends around me. No one would’ve guessed why I moved away.
But my home we fled from home from the man I called my father. A strict man with a strong posture. His looks could kill and his words hurt. But his hands hurt even more. I could’ve never known when he’d explode. But one night was the worst of all. I’ll never forget how he threw me against the couch.
How my mother wrapped her arms around me to protect me. How he, nevertheless, drove us into a corner, with his fists, and how we rushed to the hospital when he realized he had gone too far. That night changed everything. I am Andre Damian. I am not just a child abuse victim. I am the victor of my own story.
The past is behind me. And now I’m safe. My dear mother has met a new man whom I’m proud to call a father. A year ago, I decided to take charge.
Instead of life leading me, I decided to take the lead over my life. Due to my past, I could give children and youth a voice to tackle child abuse. I turned pain into passion. Two months ago, I spoke at the United Nations in Geneva. I let the people who have the power to influence the world know that we, children and youth, should not just be seen as weak children who must be protected, but as strong forces who can also contribute to tackling child abuse.
Why am I telling you this? Like I said, I turned pain into passion. And I believe that leadership begins with passion. Passion is a word that has been used a lot today. And by that word, I don’t mean that you should already know what to achieve in life, or what career to take, what to do, or what your life goals are. No.
I say that passion is the desire to make a difference because you’ve been through pain or simply because you see something that needs to be changed. Most importantly: you do something about it. To the young people in this room, I ask: who thinks they’re a leader? Raise your hand. That’s a good number of hands, but unfortunately not enough. I would’ve preferred to see them all raised.
I don’t blame you, of course. As a child, you’re taught how to do maths and how to write but not how to lead, or that you, and anyone, can be a leader. I believe that young people can lead too. Why wait for tomorrow? They often say, “Young people are the leaders of tomorrow,” but you can make a difference today. Leaders aren’t just the people at the United Nations, those who influence the world, or even only the people who tell you what to do at work.
I believe that leaders are people with a passion who can inspire others and move them towards a common goal. Young people can be leaders now, too. You don’t have to be born a leader. You can learn how to be one. That’s why I founded a social enterprise named “Leaders of Today”.
Our mission is to help young people become leaders for social action. Because you’re young and full of ambition. You want more. And you are ready to take on the world. You are born, raised, you learn, you play, you meet, you work, you rest, and you pass away.
Life is too short to let others hold you back. So stand out, be great, grab every opportunity, and grow to your full potential. Live with passion. See the world. Care about another and stand up for yourself.
Take the lead over your own life. In my work, I’ve met many great young leaders from around the world who were full of energy, the energy to win the world for themselves. We are fresh, new, open-minded, and most importantly, our passion knows no limits. We may be naive and unexperienced, but more importantly, we have dreams and ambitions, and it is our right to be safe, to be heard and to make a difference.
Stop waiting for tomorrow. Be a leader of today. Thank you.