June 17, 2013

Hannah Nelson speech in full

"Good morning. My name is Hannah Nelson, I am 16 years old and I am from Belfast. I have been thinking about an important question: how do you make peace permanent in Northern Ireland? 
Permanent peace in our country is not just a simple dream for me as a teenager growing up today in Northern Ireland. It is a sincere, genuine aspiration. I believe that enduring peace can only come about through true respect for others. We have a right to express and celebrate our diverse cultures.We all have an obligation to value each other as individuals. 
As a 16 year old I dont want to live in the past, I want to live for the past. I want to live in a country where it is not my religion that is important but my value as a person which is significant. It is important that we all have a unique identity. A choice in life to chose who and what we want to be. We are growing up in a world where we are taught to be tolerant. To live peacefully we must put this into practice.
We must accept our differences if we are to move forward. I think that my age group should be the focus. We are the ones who must build new relationships with people from different communities. Barriers need to be broken down. If we are to take away prejudice from young people's minds, we can create a society that can get on together.  
A peaceful society. Northern Ireland is my home. The reality is it has a past. Often in Northern Ireland we hear about our past. People have many genuine stories and they are definitely what make our history so important.  
But truthfully, we should not let the past pull us apart and stop us from moving forward. Somehow we need to make a brighter future: a future that builds bridges and brings people together. We need to work together, not apart. We need to listen to each other and we need to compromise. Most importantly, we need to value each other.

Peace is not easy. And it takes a lot of work to make it happen. I think that it is easy for some to sit back and just hold on to the past. For peace to be an actual reality however we all need to take responsibility in the present. Our past, our future. It is all about time. It is in the present time that we really need to be responsible, accountable people; and live to make a better future for ourselves.  
There is no time like the present. Now is the time to start making permanent peace happen in Northern Ireland. Because we, the young people in this room want and deserve to live in peace. Northern Ireland is my home, but the reality is: it has a future."

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