Remarks by Ambassador Rubinstein at OpenStartUp – Tunisia Competition Closing Ceremony

Remarks by Ambassador Rubinstein at OpenStartUp – Tunisia Competition Closing Ceremony

January 19, 2018

Good evening!  We are proud of our support for this linkage project between Columbia University and the OpenStartUp-Tunisia competition over the last two years.

Entrepreneurship is important not just for its ability to grow jobs and innovation, but for a more fundamental reason:  all the qualities that make for a committed, effective entrepreneur also make for a committed, effective democratic citizen.

The traits of collaboration, persuasion, and compromise aren’t just entrepreneurial ones.  They are democratic ones.  At its heart, successful entrepreneurship is a form of participatory citizenship and a distinctly democratic exercise.  By engaging in it, you are exercising your rights and working to develop and improve the society in which you live.

So, as you leave your colleges and universities and launch yourselves and your entrepreneurial endeavors into the world, I hope that you will continue to build the ecosystem you need to support you and your colleagues, and ultimately, your entire society.  Remember to be active citizens.  Engage your government representatives – and the politicians who want to be your government representatives – and tell them what kinds of institutions, freedoms, and laws you need for your entrepreneurial creativity and activity to grow and compete for the benefit of Tunisia.

You already have an excellent example to follow.  The professors and private sector representatives in this room who committed themselves to mentoring you and working with you to build your educational ecosystem are model participatory citizens who understand that by supporting your development, they are supporting their own ecosystems, too.  Thank you, Houda and all the mentors who are coaches, experts, and practitioners.  [Start short round of applause.]

Thank you also to Minister Khalbous [or other Ministry of Higher Ed rep if he is not present] for making space for this kind of cultural and democratic development within and among Tunisian institutions.  The Ministry’s openness to American engagement and its leadership in encouraging students and professors to develop in this way has been exceptional.

Thank you to BIAT Foundation and AfricaInvest for your ongoing support for this project.

Thank you to Columbia University and the Columbia Global Centers, both here in Tunis and in Jordan.  You have done what Americans do so much: opened up to the world to share your successes and failures and the lessons you learned from both.

Finally, thank you to all of the students who participated in this project and the OpenStartUp competition.  Both our countries will benefit from your work and from your engagement in society.  Mabruk to you all!