These 75 young leaders are the first to take advantage of the new fellowship programme, which was one of multiple YSEALI programmes announced by the president in Malaysia in April 2014. The group comprises young leaders from across a range of academic and professional disciplines, where they will further develop their professional and leadership skills through fellowships, workshops and people-to-people relationships.
"The council firmly believes that access to opportunities in the US to build academic and professional knowledge and networks will help establish and sustain a core of young business and political leaders who will help guide the Asean nations as they continue to grow, prosper, and assume greater responsibility on the world stage," said Alexander Feldman, president and CEO of the US-Asean Business Council.
"We hope to continue our relationships with these extraordinary individuals as they return to their homes and set about the business of building a post Asean Economic Community success story in each of their respective countries. Their efforts will build upon and strengthen the important relationship between Asean, its member countries and the United States.
"Asean is America's fourth largest export market in the world with over 600 million mainly young consumers and a fast growing middle class. Today, Asean is home to more American companies and more US investment than the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, China and India) nations combined. The YSEALI programme will provide a bridge to help this important economic platform grow well into the future," he added.
The fellowship is one of multiple YSEALI programmes first introduced by President Obama in December 2013 and expanded by him in April 2014. The programmes, which also include a grant programme, regional exchange opportunities, and innovation forums, focus on strengthening constructive relationships between the United States and Asean nations through an exchange of knowledge, skills, and ideas. Given that over 65 per cent of Asean's population is under the age of 35, YSEALI is an important investment in the next generation of Southeast Asian leaders.
Embassies at the 10 respective Asean countries are recruiting the young leaders based on their background, experience, leadership record, and commitment to service. They are current undergraduate or graduate students or recently graduated.
US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel addressed the reception, which also welcomed the ambassadors from Asean countries including Pisan Manawapat, Thailand's Ambassador to the US; Ashok Kumar Mirpuri, Singapore's Ambassador to the US; and Kyaw Myo Htut, Myanmar's Ambassador to the US.
Other guests of honour were key leaders from the National Security Council, including Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes. Representing the US State Department included the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Ambassador Scot Marciel; Director for the Office of Maritime Southeast Asian Affairs James A Carouso; Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asia and the Pacific covering public diplomacy Ambassador Kristie Kenney; and Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State Ambassador David Thorne.