John Key: Kids of today offer bright future for NZ

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Our children are tomorrow's leaders, writes Prime Minister John Key. Teach them well and they will forge a nation to be proud of.

John Key says today's young will shape tomorrow's society. Photo / APN
John Key says today's young will shape tomorrow's society. Photo / APN

When the New Zealand Herald celebrates its 175th anniversary in 2038, what shape will New Zealand be in?

Judging by the calibre of the young people I meet as I travel around New Zealand in my job, the country will be in very good shape.

And that will be thanks to the young people of today.

I am constantly impressed, and sometimes amazed, by what our young people are doing and achieving.

They, of course, are the leaders of the future.

I know that the Herald's guest editor for today's special edition, Sir John Kirwan, has a well-known passion to see our young people succeed.

And he also has done a huge amount in raising awareness of mental health issues in New Zealand - including issues that affect youth.

The Government I lead has a multi-pronged approach to helping young people succeed - everything from National Standards with its focus on literacy and numeracy to ensuring schools have access to high-speed broadband to enable them to participate fully in our digital future.

We have also introduced programmes to address specific difficulties which young people can face, including mental health issues.

I've had a focus ever since I entered politics on the success of young people. That was why in Opposition we announced our National Standards policy and set about successfully implementing it in government.

And that is why I've also been focused on helping young people through the difficulties they can face.

In April last year, I announced a multi-faceted youth mental health project. It acknowledges that around one in five teenagers will experience some form of mental health problem during this crucial time in their lives.

Even a mild mental illness can have a big impact on a teenager and those around them.

The project involved a package of initiatives working in four different places - our schools; online; in families and communities; and in the health system.

Obviously, tackling such an issue is complex and challenging, but it is up to governments to show leadership and address these issues with the considerable resources at their disposal. We owe our young people nothing less.

While obviously governments are focused on these issues, I also think it's important that we acknowledge where young people have done well.

By and large, their stories don't make the media like negative stories do, but their stories of determination and excellence are well worth acknowledging.

Last week, I was at the presentation of the latest William Wallace Awards to some remarkable young people. These awards honour outstanding young people who are, or have recently been, in Child, Youth and Family care.

The awards go towards helping the young person pursue their dreams of tertiary, vocational or leadership training. The commitment and determination of these young people, often in the face of significant barriers, is nothing short of inspirational.

The attitude these young people display is the kind of characteristic I see in many young New Zealanders I get to meet in the course of my working week.

I am passionate about the future of New Zealand, and I'm in politics to make a difference for the better of our society.

By 2038, young people of today will be our leaders - whether it be in politics, business, academia, education, sport or arts.

They will guide the values, principles and direction of the country in years ahead.

One thing I'm sure of is while we will still be a young country, we will be a more confident multicultural country than we are now, a country that was built on a bicultural foundation. And today's young people will help guide that future.

From the calibre and talent I see in our youth today, there is cause for real optimism about the years ahead.

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- NZ Herald

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