On behalf of the conference organizers, I wanted to welcome you to Roots of Hope's 8th Annual National Youth Leadership Conference. Before anything, I'd like to thank our hosts Boston College's Cuban American Student Association and our Programming Team for their leadership in organizing what will undoubtedly be a “transformative experience.”
I'd also like to thank our esteemed keynote and guests for joining us today - His Excellency Archbishop Wenski, and for the first time ever, guests from Cuba - Padre Jose Conrado, y los senores Orlando Marquez y Gustavo Andujar.
Amigos, es un verdadero y gran honor tenerlos aquí con nosotros. Esperamos que un día pronto podremos tener una reunión parecida con nuestros hermanos cubanos en nuestra isla querida – intercambiando nuestras ideas, deseos, y esperanzas para el futuro de Cuba y su pueblo en ambos lados del estrecho de la Florida. De nuevo, muchísimas gracias por compartir con nosotros.
As you might know, we sponsored our first student-run conference eight years ago today – right across the river at Harvard. The conference was entitled "Raices de Esperanza" and the purpose was to bring together dynamic young leaders to connect with their "roots," reach out to Cuba and find a way to empower ourselves and our counterparts on the island.
Today, that continues to be the purpose of this annual conference. When we started, we were a handful of students. Today, we span more than 55 universities with over 3,500 members and have carried out truly historic efforts that have touched and inspired millions. We're honored to have you join us this weekend and welcome you to be a part of a movement that we call a family and that's making a real impact both here and in Cuba.
This year, our conference's theme is all the more relevant than ever before. Trans(Formacion) seeks to analyze the recent events in Cuba – the evolution of the role of the Catholic Church on the island, the release of more than 52 prisoners of conscience, and the proposed economic reforms – in order to come up with innovative projects for furthering our mission: to empower Cuban youth to become the authors of their own futures.
At such a critical time, we're excited to have you participate in this year's conference and encourage you to make the most of this experience that we hope will truly be “transformative.”
Felice Gorordo is co-founder and Chairman of Raices de Esperanza, Inc. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and resides in Miami, FL, with his wife and daughter.