“An Opportunity to Serve”: President Paul Kagame on The Pathway

If you had the opportunity to sit down with a revolutionary leader, what would you ask?

The Room was honoured to welcome His Excellency Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, for a Special Edition of The Pathway, a conversation series with global leaders.

Hosted by Fred Swaniker and filmed in front of an audience of dignitaries and over 600 students at the Kigali Convention Centre in Rwanda, the event was streamed live to thousands tuning in across the globe. Leaders including Reeta Roy, President and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation, and Professor Senait Fisseha, a renowned figure in reproductive health and lifelong gender champion, offered inspiring words to open this special event.

Covering everything from His Excellency’s passion for youth empowerment to the unconventional and daring leadership decisions that have shaped his Presidency, read on to discover our Top 10 highlights from this unforgettable edition of The Pathway.

1. Leaders are made through grit and determination

As a leader at the forefront of a bold mission to empower 30 million young people in Africa to seek dignified work, Reeta Roy’s opening words encouraged young people to find their moral purpose and take action. She reminded us what it takes to be a purpose-driven leader in pursuit of change.

“Leaders are not just born, they are made through circumstances that they didn’t choose — but leaders are also made through choices they make that call upon their grit and determination.”

2. Fight relentlessly for what is right

Professor Senait Fisseha, who has dedicated her life to leveling the playing field for women and girls, challenged us to use our privilege, power and platforms to lift others up.

“There are a lot of uncertainties, but in the face of that, there is an incredible opportunity for you to be a positive force in shaping the future in an impactful way… Focus on the power you have to change the world around you.”

3. Value your relationships

Founder of The Room, Fred Swaniker, strongly believes in the power of relationships to transform yourself and the world around you. He offered an important reminder to learn and grow from the relationships you form with others.

“Each and every opportunity I’ve received was through a relationship I had with someone — usually someone who was more powerful and more established than I was.”

4. Pay it forward

It is not enough to only be on the receiving end of relationships. As Dr Swaniker noted, it is essential that you focus on the value you are adding to others.

“When you’re in a room with people who have opportunities, take the time to build relationships with them with these 4 steps: Connection, Continuous Interaction, Trust and Collaboration. You need to think of relationship building as a bank account — you can’t just withdraw from it; you also need to give.”

5. Do hard things

As a former political refugee, President Kagame has been at the forefront of leading his country to collective reconciliation, growth, and continuous prosperity. He is a leader who has spent his life doing hard things — and urged us all to do the same.

“Hard things must be done. Somebody has got to do them. I don’t have a good reason not to be one of those people who does hard things.”

6. But do not forget the simple things

In tackling the big problems of the world, remember that it starts with the simple things. His Excellency shared his belief that hard things are, in fact, made up of small things, which increasingly lead to achieving big hairy audacious goals.

From developing Kigali into one of the cleanest cities in the world to establishing reconciliation efforts following the 1994 Genocide, this ‘start-small-start-right’ mentality is what helped him elevate Rwanda to its present-day status, and he insists this transformative ability lies within each of us.

“It’s not just about doing hard things; it starts with doing simple things. Doing hard things means doing the simple things extremely well.”

7. Challenge yourself

When difficult times arise, you may want to seek shelter in the safe spaces that those around you provide, but make sure you look within first. President Kagame challenged us to get out of our comfort zones and be resourceful in finding ways to improve our situations.

“Before you go to another for help, make sure you’ve challenged yourself enough as to how much you can do for yourself and then reach out to a friend for support.”

8. Real learning comes by doing

The President, who is a big supporter of education, deeply believes in learning by doing.

“Think beyond what you are used to. Only 10% of problems can be solved by following textbook advice. The rest needs to be done by hard thinking. You don’t become a leader by just going to school; you build on what you have acquired and work towards making an impact.”

9. Great potential lies in our shared humanity

The story of Rwanda is a story of resilience and one that demonstrates the power within us to rise against what seems like impossible odds. When asked how Rwanda has achieved this, the President reflected on our collective potential to achieve miracles through empathy and courage.

“I cannot say it was magic, it was what was possible as human beings. Human beings can be self-destructive but human beings can also reach within themselves to make miracles. It’s all within us as humans.”

10. Harness every opportunity

In his final words, His Excellency called on young people to make the most of the opportunities afforded to them.

“Young people, you have opportunity — just take it and run with it.”

Describing his Presidency as an “opportunity to serve,” he reminded us what it means to be a bold leader inspiring great change.

Visit The Pathway YouTube channel for more highlights from this Special Edition featuring H.E. President Paul Kagame.

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