Being a leader was his childhood dream, said Edmond Saksak, a senior double majoring in political science and social work from Vanuatu, and he wants to serve his people in the future. His professors and friends shared how great a leader he will be in his home country.
“I have always liked doing service because seeing others happy makes me the happiest person,” Saksak shared.
He explained said the lessons he learned throughout his life prepared him to be a leader. “I am going to help my people just as Jesus would have me do.”
Christina Akanoa, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Business & Government, said Saksak took several political science classes from her. Akanoa said she supports Saksak’s goal of running for Parliament in Vanuatu.
Akanoa said Saksak has great leadership qualities. “He is genuinely concerned about people and cares about them. ... He is always thinking and always likes to pick my brain about certain topics.”
She said Saksak is mature in his thinking and articulates well. “He is committed and very smart. This will make him a great candidate for the Vanuatu government.”
Akanoa said she admires his “honesty, passion [and his] genuine love for his people and others.” She said Saksak is “sincere and has strong moral standards. He will be a great leader someday.”
Saksak said he is willing to become a leader in any department of the government in Vanuatu to make sure services are received and hold those involved in corruption accountable. “My No. 1 goal is to make sure the distribution of services is given fairly throughout our six provinces and to leave no one behind.”
Preparing to lead
Saksak said he is preparing himself emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally to meet people’s needs and connect well with people and political rivals.
Line-Noue Memea Kruse, an adjunct professor in the Faculty of Culture, Language & Performing Arts, said Saksak has been in her political science and upper-level Pacific Islands Studies classes, and he is one of her best students.
She said Saksak has been very civic-minded in his academic endeavors, his class projects and personal engagements always center on transparency, education and honesty. “This is why his university studies here at BYUH are critical to his professional pursuits because we try to foster these exact values and characteristics,” she said.
Kruse believes BYU–Hawaii and all her classes have benefited immensely from Saksak’s passion, critical thinking, empathy and good works to other students inside and outside of classes. “Edmond is not part of the herd mentality. He thinks for himself and will go head to head with any professor if he believes his position has a stronger argument.”
Kruse said in one of her classes where Saksak was present they were talking about “violence in homes targeting women’s exclusion from being legally protected in the villages.”
Kruse said, “Edmond was the strongest voice in the advocacy of child protection and the rights for all to be free from violence and pain. He made recommendations in parliament for bills to be introduced that could protect women and children.”
Kruse said Saksak is the epitome of why BYUH exists: “To further educate Pacific students to return home to build economies and strengthen families but also to build the Kingdom of God by loving everyone and not excluding anyone.”
Saksak plans to go to graduate school after graduating from BYUH, focusing on international policy and development program at the University of Hawaii or the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.
“I know it will take another two years, but I believe pursuing a master’s degree will help me to be a better leader.”
Saksak said he already started to prepare for the entry exams of the master’s program. He explained today’s economic and social challenges demand more knowledge to navigate the global aspects of development.
“I believe the knowledge I will gain from my master’s will help me promote and implement policies that will make the world a better place for everyone.”
When he will become a leader
Saksak said when he becomes a leader in Vanuatu, first, he wants to ensure human rights, gender equality and identity are being respected.
Second, he wants to make sure the services from the government are distributed equally and fairly.
Third, he wants to reevaluate and redesign some policies to bless people’s lives.
Fourth, he wants to stop international corrupt people from hiding in Vanuatu because Vanuatu is a tax-free haven for them. “I will make sure if they are running away from being taxed by their country, then I will tax them in Vanuatu.”
Fifth, he wants to increase intercultural competence. “Intercultural competence is another interesting subject when I become a leader of a small nation with only a population of 300,000, but that speaks over 100 different languages and different traditions.”
Akanoa shared, “He will make a great leader someday. He will definitely influence and implement change in Vanuatu. He is a smart student who is committed and always tries his best in every given assignment.
“Edmond loves to read and will always do extra reading for my classes. He asks questions, he articulates well and participates when needed.”
Akanoa said she hopes she has helped Saksak understand the concepts of politics, particularly in the area of small island nations such as Vanuatu. “I have taught in most of my Oceanic government classes about current issues, both regional and national, that our Pacific Island people are facing and how we can assess, analyze and implement for change if it needs to be.”
She added, “It is our role as island students in the context of our nation-states to see how we can contribute to resolving issues relevant to our well-being.”
Akanoa said Saksak is also a member of the Human Rights Club at BYUH, and they have been actively discussing dominant issues in Oceanic regions, such as climate change, seabed mining, fisheries, good governance and gender equality. Akanoa said she creates assignments that allow the students to actively participate and articulate their thoughts on these issues through in-depth research.
United Nations peace ambassador
Saksak attended the United Nations’ Peace Summit of Emerging Leaders in February 2020, in Bangkok, Thailand. “The summit aims to empower young people and inspire youth who are passionate about positive social changes,” according to the University of New South Wales’ news.
Saksak said he swore to become a U.N. World Peace Ambassador for a year at the summit.
Although he pledged to be a World Peace Ambassador for one year, Saksak said he is a peace ambassador for life because of his covenants with the Lord. “When I read the teachings of our Savior, Mosiah 18:8-10, I learned that we are officially covenanted with the Lord to be his peace ambassadors for a lifetime.” It gives him a broader look into people’s lives and helps him understand the only way to fight injustices is to fight with love and peace, Saksak added.
Saksak shared his favorite quote by U.S. Senator John Lewis, “Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful. Be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month or a year. It is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
Saksak said he believes to make a difference in the world, he must be different from the world. He said BYUH helped him obtain secular and religious higher education and build connections with people from all over the world.
Kayla Kaimarama Willie, a senior from the Cook Islands majoring in political science, said Saksak is a hardworking and dedicated student. “He knows what he wants and is self-motivated to accomplish his goals. He is confident in all he does and not afraid to speak his mind even when his opinions are viewed as unpopular,” Willie commented.
According to Willie, Saksak aspires to respect different views, analyze problems and identify the best solutions based on what is good and right and in the best interest of those around him. “He has integrity, good work ethics. He is a good team player and compassionate. He takes personal responsibility and serves those around him.”
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