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International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

Former child soldier kicks off GIN Conference with keynote speech


Emmanuel Jal, a former child soldier turned musician, actor and speaker presented at the Global Issues Network (GIN) Conference on Monday March, 11th.

Jal took the stage at Funger Hall on the campus of George Washington University singing his song “We Want Peace”. He spoke about his experiences as a child soldier and his journey from war-torn South Sudan to new-found stardom around the world. These experiences were the backbone of his presentation. He used music, dance and other forms of art to support his message.

“I like sharing my experiences. My main vision is to share my experiences for social emotial learning through the arts: music, dance, writing,” Jal said.

Jal emphasized the benefits of finding your purpose and accomplishing your dreams throughout his speech. He asked people in the crowd what they want to do when they grow up and the goals they have in life.

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Some wanted to be engineers and lawyers, others simply wanted to create positive change in the world. No matter the goal, Emmanuel Jal believes simply finding one and working to accomplish it is most important.

“If you can find your purpose and the dream you want to build, you’ve found a big thing,” he said.

Coming from a very tough upbringing in South Sudan in the 1980’s until eventually being taken in by a British aid worker and smuggled to Kenya, Jal has faced a lot of adversity in his life. While many in attendance live priviliged lives and had a more conventional childhood, he has no regrets about his life. In fact, he believes his hardships growing up were instrumental in shaping who he is today and he would not change anything about it.

“If you are completely comfortable in life you are not going to be very productive, there has to be a challenge. You could be so wealthy, but you have many problems,” Jal said.

The GIN Conference is held once a year and the organizers begin organizing months in advance to bring in interesting and influential keynote speakers. This year, Emmanuel Jal was the first of two speakers who presented in front of a contingent of students from WIS, GDS, Walls, St. Stephen’s St. Agnes, among others. The crowd was very engaged and genuinely interested in Jal’s speech and he took notice.

“I liked it, everybody here seemed to know what they’re doing, everyone is focused and content”, he said.

Through Jal’s combinations of speaking, dancing and singing, there was a lot of energy in the room. WIS students particularly enjoyed his speech because of the fact that he comes from such an interesting background, something very common in our community.

“I found it really interesting. I was pleased to see how he learned from his tough experiences and how he had a positive impact not just on his community, but on other parts of the world”, said senior Luke Courtney.

Since breaking through in terms of popularity in recent years, Jal has been all around the world to do speaking engagements and workshops, a long way away from his life as a child soldier in Sudan. He has thousands of social media followers and has been in a Hollywood movie with Reese Witherspoon.

“I go to schools and universities. I’ve gone to China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Finland, most European countries and all around the African continent,” he said.

For now Jal is going to continue his life as a public speaker, musician and peace ambassador. He hopes to continue helping people achieve their full potential and live happier lives.

“I help people find their pupose, increase their mental power, create new habits and beliefs. Also, how they can become more succesful in life and increase their productivity,” said Jal.

Emmanuel Jal will remain in the minds and hearts of the attendees of the GIN Conference and his message will continue to influence people around the world.

“The reason for all this is to create concious global awakening. When we interconnect and work together, eveyone is joyful and happy.”

By Anders Westermann

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