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Remarks of Mary Lou Leary, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs

Tribal Youth Summit World Café: Voices of Youth Listening Session

Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Santa Fe, NM

     Thank you, Laura [Ansera]. I'm really pleased to be here. I want to begin by thanking all our federal and non-federal partners for their work in making this summit happen.

     Having been at this session last year, I know what a terrific opportunity this is to hear from you - our future leaders - about how you see your communities in the years ahead. And I'm glad that my colleague, Deputy Associate Attorney General Karol Mason, and our friends from the White House are here today to listen to the discussion.

     Let me say just a couple of words about my agency, then we'll move on to our conversation. Our role at the Office of Justice Programs is to help professionals who work in the criminal and juvenile justice system - people like police officers, prosecutors, judges, and victim service providers - do their jobs better. We do this through funding, training, research and information, and other types of assistance.

     We do a lot of work in Indian country, and we count many tribal leaders and representatives among our close partners. Our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention - which helped sponsor this summit - oversees a Tribal Youth Program that specifically aims to reduce juvenile delinquency.

     We're big believers in the idea that decisions about what's best for tribal youth - and for tribal communities generally - must involve tribal youth. No group has a greater stake in the future than you. That's the idea behind this summit.

     I remember from last year's listening session being very impressed, both with the ideas that were shared and, more importantly, with the energy that was displayed. It was remarkable to see the level of enthusiasm - and optimism - from the participants. I found it to be an incredibly positive sign for our nation's tribes, and I left feeling extremely hopeful about the future of tribal communities. I can feel the same energy and enthusiasm here today.

     Throughout the summit, you've heard from leaders and from your peers, and hopefully you've had a chance to engage with one another and think about your role as leaders. Now we're interested in hearing from you how you envision the future of your communities. How do you see things in 10, 20, 50 years?

     We also want to know what you believe your communities need to make them better places to live. There are a lot of ways my agency can help, not limited to money. But we need to know how you see the future in order to figure out how to use our resources.

     So lay it out there. Be honest. And don't be afraid to push the envelope. And remember that building a future means working together. There's an old Hopi proverb that the Attorney General once quoted that I think is fitting for our work. It goes, "Even the smallest pebble cannot be lifted by single finger."

     Keep those words in mind. We're in this together - and together, we're capable of great things.

     Thanks, and I'm looking forward to the discussion.


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