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  • Ms. Woo: Welcome to the Young Southeast Asian

  • Leaders Initiative Town Hall.

  • My name is Anita Woo, your moderator this afternoon.

  • Today we have the crème de la crème of ASEAN youth

  • right here, gathered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

  • in University of Malaya's Tunku Chancellor Hall.

  • Having produced two Malaysia prime ministers,

  • this venue is no stranger to young leaders,

  • such as yourselves.

  • We are here because, as youth under the age of 35,

  • we currently represent 60 percent of the ASEAN

  • population, and being the single largest demographic

  • in ASEAN, we not only have an impact on our

  • respective nations, but also across the region.

  • From a global perspective, although ASEAN covers just

  • 3 percent of land area, ASEAN is a single --

  • as a single identity would rank as the seventh largest

  • economy in the world; however, each nation

  • within ASEAN is in a different place in our

  • journeys towards development,

  • each journey unique.

  • Deep poverty persists in the region, but one of the

  • leaders tackling this issue is Indonesia's

  • Dr. Sri Mulyani Indrawati, who is currently managing

  • director of World Bank Group.

  • Similarly, although the record on upholding human

  • rights and democratic governance within the

  • region still leaves much to be desired,

  • (inaudible) heroic struggle and triumph

  • proves that mountains can be moved with

  • determination and tenacity.

  • ASEAN young entrepreneurs don't have to look far

  • to know that success is within their reach

  • as AirAsia Tan Sri Tony Fernandez carved his

  • success from within this very region, Moreover,

  • with a thriving scene in Southeast Asia --

  • creative scene -- who knows?

  • The next Jimmy Choo could be amongst

  • us this very moment.

  • As our region faces the challenges inherent

  • in a rapidly developing nation and economy,

  • where perspectives on education, business, environment

  • must change with the times, we should use our ingenuity

  • and entrepreneurial spirit to change how we plan

  • to overcome these obstacles and emerge

  • stronger than ever.

  • Southeast Asia is one of the diversity-rich

  • regions, home to an array of cultures

  • and histories, and as we know, it was once even

  • home to President Obama.

  • The future of ASEAN will lie in its ability

  • to not only celebrate this diversity,

  • but to harness it as a key building block for our success.

  • Today the President himself will be taking

  • questions directly from those present here,

  • as well as questions submitted to you --

  • submitted by you through Facebook and Twitter

  • from around the region.

  • Without further ado, please join

  • me in welcoming to stage the 44th President of the

  • United States, President Barack Obama.

  • (applause)

  • The President: Hello everybody!

  • The President: Well, good afternoon.

  • Selamat petang.

  • Please, everybody have a seat.

  • It is wonderful to be here and it is wonderful to see

  • all these outstanding young people here.

  • I want to thank, first of all,

  • the University of Malaya for hosting us.

  • I want to thank the Malaysian people

  • for making us feel so welcome.

  • Anita, thank you for helping to moderate.

  • These trips are usually all business for me,

  • but every once in a while I want to have some fun,

  • so I try to hold an event like this where I get

  • to hear directly from young people like you --

  • because I firmly believe that you will shape the future

  • of your countries and the future of this region.

  • And I'm glad to see so many students who

  • are here today, including young people

  • from across Southeast Asia.

  • And I know some of you are joining us online

  • and through social media, and you'll be able

  • to ask me questions, too.

  • This is my fifth trip to Asia as President,

  • and I plan to be back again later this year --

  • not just because I like the sights and the food,

  • although I do, but because a few years ago

  • I made a deliberate and strategic decision as President

  • of the United States that America will play

  • a larger, more comprehensive

  • role in this region's future.

  • I know some still ask what this strategy

  • is all about.

  • So before I answer your questions,

  • I just want to answer that one question --

  • why Asia is so important to America, and why Southeast Asia

  • has been a particular focus, and finally,

  • why I believe that young people like you have

  • to be the ones who lead us forward.

  • Many of you know this part of the world

  • has special meaning for me.

  • I was born in Hawaii, right in the middle

  • of the Pacific.

  • I lived in Indonesia as a boy.

  • (applause)

  • Hey!

  • There's the Indonesian contingent.

  • (applause)

  • Yes, that's where they're from.

  • (applause)

  • My sister, Maya, was born in Jakarta.

  • She's married to a man whose parents

  • were born here -- my brother-in-law's father

  • in Sandakan, and his mom in Kudat.

  • (applause)

  • And my mother spent years working

  • in the villages of Southeast Asia, helping women

  • buy sewing machines or gain an education

  • so that they could better earn a living.

  • And as I mentioned last night to His Majesty the

  • King, and the Prime Minister,

  • I'm very grateful for the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia

  • for hosting an exhibit that showcased some of my

  • mother's batik collection, because it meant

  • a lot to her and it's part of the connection that I felt

  • and I continue to feel to this region.

  • So the Asia Pacific, with its rich cultures

  • and beautiful traditions and vibrant society --

  • that's all part of who I am.

  • It helped shape how I see the world.

  • And it's also helped to shape

  • my approach as President.

  • And while our government, our financial centers,

  • many of our traditions began along

  • the Atlantic Coast, America has always been

  • a Pacific nation, as well.

  • Our biggest, most populous state

  • is on the Pacific Coast.

  • And for generations, waves of immigrants from

  • all over Asia -- from different countries

  • and races and religions -- have come

  • to America and contributed to our success.

  • From our earliest years, when our first President,

  • George Washington, sent a trade mission

  • to China, through last year, when the aircraft

  • carrier that bears his name, the George Washington,

  • helped with typhoon relief in the Philippines,

  • America has always had a history with Asia.

  • And we've got a future with Asia.

  • This is the world's fastest-growing region.

  • Over the next five years, nearly half

  • of all economic growth outside the United States

  • is projected to come from right here in Asia.

  • That means this region is vital to creating

  • jobs and opportunity not only for yourselves

  • but also for the American people.

  • And any serious leader in America

  • recognizes that fact.

  • And because you're home to more than half

  • of humanity, Asia will largely define

  • the contours of the century ahead --

  • whether it's going to be marked by conflict or cooperation;

  • by human suffering or human progress.

  • This is why America has refocused our attention

  • on the vast potential of the Asia Pacific region.

  • My country has come through a decade

  • in which we fought two wars and an economic crisis

  • that hurt us badly -- along with countries

  • all over the globe.

  • But we've now ended the war in Iraq;

  • our war in Afghanistan will end this year.

  • Our businesses are steadily

  • creating new jobs.

  • And we've begun addressing the challenges

  • that have weighed down our economy for too long --

  • reforming our health care and financial systems,

  • raising standards in our schools,

  • building a clean energy economy, cutting our fiscal deficits

  • by more than half since I took office.

  • Though we've been busy at home, the crisis still

  • confronts us in other parts

  • of the world from the Middle East to Ukraine.

  • But I want to be very clear.

  • Let me be clear about this,

  • because some people have wondered whether because of what

  • happens in Ukraine or what happens in the Middle East,

  • whether this will sideline our strategy -- it has not.

  • We are focused and we're going to follow through

  • on our interest in promoting

  • a strong U.S.-Asia relationship.

  • America has responsibilities

  • all around the world, and we're glad

  • to embrace those responsibilities.

  • And, yes, sometimes we have a political system

  • of our own and it can be easy to lose sight

  • of the long view.

  • But we have been moving forward on our rebalance

  • to this part of the world by opening ties

  • of commerce and negotiating our most ambitious trade

  • agreement; by increasing our defense

  • and educational exchange cooperation,

  • and modernizing our alliances; by participating fully

  • in regional institutions like the East Asia Summit;

  • building deeper partnerships

  • with emerging powers like Indonesia and Vietnam.

  • And increasingly, we're building

  • these partnerships throughout Southeast Asia.

  • Since President Johnson's visit here to Malaysia

  • in 1966, there's perhaps no region on Earth

  • that has changed so dramatically.

  • Old dictatorships have crumbled.

  • New voices have emerged.

  • Controlled economies have given way to free markets.

  • What used to be small villages, kampungs,

  • are now gleaming skyscrapers.

  • The 10 nations that make up ASEAN are home

  • to nearly one in 10 of the world's citizens.

  • And when you put those countries together,

  • you're the seventh largest economy in the world,

  • the fourth largest market for American exports,

  • the number-one destination

  • for American investment in Asia.

  • And I'm proud to be the first American President

  • to meet regularly with all 10 ASEAN leaders,

  • and I intend to do it every year that I remain President.

  • (applause)

  • By the way, I want to congratulate

  • Malaysia on its turn to assume the chairmanship

  • of ASEAN next year.

  • (applause)

  • Malaysia plays a central role in this

  • region that will only keep growing over time,

  • with an ability to promote economic growth

  • and opportunity, and be an anchor of stability

  • and maritime security.

  • Now, one of the things that makes this region

  • so interesting is its diversity.

  • That diversity creates a unique intersection

  • of humanity -- people from so many ethnic groups

  • and backgrounds and religious and political beliefs.

  • It gives Malaysia, as one primary example,

  • the chance to prove -- as America constantly

  • tries to prove -- that nations are stronger

  • and more successful when they work to uphold the civil rights

  • and political rights and human rights

  • of all their citizens.

  • (applause)

  • That's why, over the past few years, Prime Minister

  • Najib and I have worked to broaden and deepen the

  • relationship between our two countries

  • in the same spirit of berkerja sama that I think

  • so many of you embody.

  • (applause)

  • The United States remains

  • the number-one investor in Malaysia.

  • We're partnering to promote security

  • in shipping lanes.